Central College News

Central College’s Upward Bound Program Receives John Deere Foundation Grant

Featured: Central College’s Upward Bound Program Receives John Deere Foundation Grant

September 7, 2023

Central College received a grant for more than $43,000 from the John Deere Foundation to support the college’s long-standing Upward Bound program. This program helps low-income, potential first-generation college students achieve academic success.

The Upward Bound program at Central serves students in Des Moines Public Schools who are low-income, potentially first-generation college students and want to go to college. Upward Bound supports students to finish high school strong, prepare to be successful in college and secure good-paying jobs.

Kristin Lewis, director for pre-college programs, estimates that this grant, along with U.S. Department of Education funding, will provide additional STEM-specific services to 190 students. Central’s Upward Bound summer program includes hands-on STEM experiences, STEM components on field trips as well as a mentoring program at John Deere facilities for 11th-grade students.

“The John Deere Foundation allows us to provide enriching STEM experiences that don’t otherwise fit into the budget of our grant,” Lewis says. “These additional activities give our Upward Bound students a wide breadth of experiences that help guide them into future college majors and careers.”

Every summer about 90 students come to the Central campus from area high schools to attend a three-week summer program to sample college life. Students take jumpstart classes to prepare them for their upcoming fall semester during the day, live in Central’s residence halls, eat at Central Market and participate in college-like activities in the evening. The program is free to students, including tuition, housing and food, lodging on field trips, transportation and entry or ticket fees for events. Upward Bound provides another three weeks of programming for students during the rest of the summer where the John Deere Foundation grant funds support STEM camps and even a tour at John Deere facilities.

“Upward Bound is such an impactful program and the support we receive from the John Deere Foundation to maintain that work is so appreciated,” says Michelle Wilkie, director of development at Central. “We are grateful and give our deepest thanks to the foundation for their commitment to helping students succeed.”

“The John Deere Foundation has made a bold commitment to strive for equity by serving at least one million underserved and underrepresented youth in John Deere’s home communities over a 10-year period,” says Pat Barnes, global social responsibility lead, education and equity at John Deere. “We are thrilled to partner with Central College supporting Upward Bound to expand access to STEM programming that will prepare students for the jobs of the future.”