Upward Bound pic

Upward Bound Program Director Brandy Joe, left, and Program Administrative Assistant Redonna Miles pose in front of the trophies won by students of the academic success program. The program is for high school students and is operated from the Williamsburg Technical College campus.

Photo by Dianne Poston Owens

When Brandy Joe was a shy ninth grader at C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville, she was tagged by teachers as a likely candidate for the pre-college academic enhancement program. Then, she was afraid to compete, talk in front of a crowd, and didn’t trust herself to make it to college.

“I was very shy, but I got out of it,” Joe said with a smile. A product of the program aimed at creating success stories for students who might not otherwise envision success, Joe was named the director of Upward Bound for Williamsburg County near the start of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Her program director, Geraldine Shaw retired this past summer and Joe rose from her seat as academic counselor for the program to become its director.

At the age of 14, Joe said she told those urging her to participate in a pageant offered through the program that “No. I wasn’t going to participate. I kept listening to him (Neilson Hilton, then the academic counselor of the program) and he kept telling me I was going to do it.

“I did it. And not only did I participate, I was named Miss Upward Bound that year,” she said. “It was the beginning of getting me out of my shyness.”

As Joe continued through the Upward Bound program during her high school years, she said she was not achieving academically as she should have been before the program, she was pushed by what she was learning in the program to strive for academic excellence.

“I am thankful for the cultural experiences of the program (visits to museums, plays, historical landmarks and other events and places she might otherwise not have enjoyed),” she said. “And the financial and economic literacy it provided, along with the financial aid I received for college.”

In those days, though, her aim was at becoming a business woman. With that in mind, she attended, and graduated from, Coastal Carolina University in 2009, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and a concentration in management and finance.

“I love numbers; numbers are my thing,” she said. And she looked forward to working with numbers. But when she got her part-time job with the Upward Bound program, based at Williamsburg Technical College, she learned she loved the students, too.

Not that many people who have worked their way through the program return to work in the program, she said, but here she is, leading the program that helped her succeed. In 2008 She became a part-time tutor with the WTC Upward Bound program and in 2012 became the program’s academic specialist. In 2018 she became the program’s counselor, replacing, along the way, those people who had mentored and pushed her to achieve.

Upward Bound is designed for first generation, low-income students or students with a high risk for academic failure. There are 93 students enrolled in the program. There is no drop out rate, Joe said. Once you’re in, you work the program and achieve, she said.

In addition to Redonna Miles, administrative assistant in the program, Danielle Nelson serves as the academic specialist with the program. The office is looking for an education advisor, Joe said.

“I had no idea I would love the kids the way I do,” she said. The program is designed to motivate students and to help them develop skills that first get them to complete high school and then to make a successful transition into postsecondary education, she said.

Applications can be picked up from any of four high schools in the county, or from the Upward Bound office at WTC. To be eligible for the Upward Bound program, a student must be a high school student residing in Williamsburg County; be enrolled in grades 9 or 10; meet federal income guidelines; be the child of a parent who has not received his or her bachelor’s degree; and be committed to pursuing a four-year college degree.

It is possible, Joe said, for a student to enter the program their senior year, as well. Upward Bound offers participants academic assistance Monday-Thursday during the summer in addition to Saturday programs during the school year.

 The program offers tutoring, cultural enrichment exposure, work study for graduating seniors, a summer bridge program and financial aid workshops, she said. Work study is a type of on-the-job training. The program works with several entities in the county to provide work study, she said.

For information, about the program, call Miles or Joe at 843-355-4175.

This past summer, the 2019 Summer Component, Upward Bound offered STEM-focused opportunities for participants. In addition to outings, students were busy in classrooms working with STEM concepts. The roller coaster created by students is still on display is the WTC office.

The program received a $40,000 STEM grant to help prepare students from under-represented populations pursue post-secondary degrees in STEM.

“I just love it. They call me anytime,” she said of the program participants.