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New Program Serves Local Low-Income High School Students

CMU receives TRIO Upward Bound grant

After a decades-long effort, Colorado Mesa University received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education that provides resources and support for low-income and future first-generation college students from two local high schools.

Students in grades 9 and 10 from Grand Junction High School and Central High School can apply to the TRIO Upward Bound (UB) program for the 2023-24 academic school year. The goal of the program is to prepare students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

CMU’s Upward Bound Project Director Shelby Burroughs Pryzgoda is leading the charge to increase college interest and enrollment for eligible GJHS and CHS students.

“We start working with students right after they graduate from 8th grade through the summer after their senior year. We’re watching these students develop over time and helping them with their goals, both for college and career,” said Pryzgoda “We are also coming alongside their families. As first-generation students we understand their families may not have the background knowledge of what to look for when choosing a college and how to explore majors, and especially the financial piece.”

In addition to Pryzgoda overseeing the program, Upward Bound places high school counselors within the district to work with students one-on-one to develop action plans to get them through high school as well as prepare them for their higher education journey. These plans focus on grades, attendance and how to help the students achieve their educational goals. Counselors will even work with the students' families to provide them with information and resources.

“That’s my desire, to provide students here the ability to see what’s out there. Many of our students are low-income and have never left the valley, so we're providing opportunities for them to see what options are out there in the world and to also see themselves as a college student,” said Pryzgoda.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be between the ages of 13 and 19, have completed grade 8, study at Central High School or Grand Junction High School, identify as a first-generation student and demonstrate financial need.

Colorado Mesa University is the newest college in the state of Colorado to receiving funding for the UB program. When the grant was solidified, recently retired Mesa County Valley School District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko fully embraced the new program to capitalize on the work the district was already doing to help students.

“So far, it’s been really encouraging to see both administrators at the CMU level, as well as at the school district, and how eager they are to support students and how excited they are about the conversation around college access. While we do such great work with our students at CMU, I think there’s room to grow for helping garner that interest at the high school level,” said Pryzgoda. 

Due to the current grant allotment, Upward Bound serves 60 students at a time, with 30 students from Central High School and 30 from Grand Junction High School. Those who are interested can apply at


Written by Madelynn Fellet