Local high school graduates representing IUPUI program at White House summit

INDIANAPOLIS -- Two recent high school graduates who participated in a college preparatory program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will attend first lady Michelle Obama's Beating the Odds Summit this week at the White House.

The first lady will welcome more than 130 college-bound students from across the country to the daylong event Thursday, July 23, part of her Reach Higher initiative.

Jamar Buckley, 18, a 2015 graduate of Warren Central High School; and Rayauna Wilburn, 18, a 2015 Shortridge High School graduate, will travel to the nation's capital to represent the IUPUI Upward Bound program at the summit.

"These two students really embody what the IUPUI Upward Bound program is all about," said Yecenia Haydee Tostado, the program's assistant director. "We have a high success rate in terms of students in the program attending and completing college. Jamar and Rayauna really took full advantage of the program and are ready for college. Their selection to attend the Beating the Odds Summit is a great honor for our program as well as for them as individuals."

Tostado will accompany Buckley and Wilburn to Washington.

The IUPUI Upward Bound program serves 127 high school students from eight Indianapolis area schools. The program targets students whose parents don't have four-year degrees and students from families that meet federal low-income guidelines.

The Beating the Odds summit includes an 11 a.m. panel moderated by E! News host Terrence Jenkins, which will feature Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, musical artist Wale and Manuel Contreras, a rising senior at Brown University and co-founder of 1vyG.Wale will also perform a concert. The students will also attend workshops and panels led by the U.S. Department of Education, Google’s Jaime Casap and other leaders in K-12 and post-secondary education.

Jamar Buckley

Jamar Buckley

Michelle Obama established the Reach Higher initiative as an effort to inspire every student in America to pursue education beyond high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college or a four-year college or university.

Ninety-four percent of the seniors in the Upward Bound program at IUPUI last year enrolled in post-secondary education.

Buckley plans to enroll at Ball State in the fall as a telecommunications major and hopes to become a television personality. Wilburn will attend Indiana State and plans to seek a career as a pediatric physician's assistant.

Both Buckley and Wilburn joined the IUPUI Upward Bound program as high school sophomores.

"Academically it helped me get a jump-start (on) most of my classes that I will be involved in during the coming year," Buckley said. "Upward Bound is a rare opportunity to get involved and helps you really see what you are getting into, especially if you are a first-generation college student."

The college prep program includes a six-week summer academy during which the students live on the IUPUI campus, and a nine-month academic-year component that supplements the traditional school-year program. Activities include academic instruction in math, science and language arts; tutoring and academic counseling; visits to college campuses; and assistance with college applications and financial aid forms.

"It gets you ready for life -- not just high school, but everything after high school," Wilburn said. "I would not be as ready as I am now for college" without Upward Bound. A career advisor she met during her summer internship was instrumental in helping her determine a career choice, Wilburn said.

Both students said Upward Bound provided great opportunities for invaluable networking experiences.

Michelle Obama's Beating the Odds summit will be streamed live via wh.gov/live