The University of San Diego TRiO: Upward Bound program is one of over 700 Upward Bound programs nationwide that assist eligible high school students to achieve their dreams of persisting in and graduating to higher levels of education. The students that Upward Bound serves must come from low-income families (with incomes at or below 150% of poverty as defined by the U.S. Department of Education) and/or are first generation potential college students (neither parent/guardian has earned a bachelor's degree).

Upward Bound provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance. The program provides opportunities for participants to succeed in pre-college performance and ultimately in higher education pursuits. Upward Bound aims to increase the rates at which participants complete secondary education, enroll in, and graduate from institutions of post-secondary education.


Since 1966, an estimated 2 million TRiO students have graduated from college. More than 600 institutions across the nation now sponsor TRiO programs. USD Upward Bound has a five-week summer session, during which up to 50 of its eligible students take academic classes and live on USD’s campus. USD Upward Bound began in October 1998 when Dr. Cynthia Villis, at that time an Associate Provost at USD, submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

In May 1999 USD's The Rock, The River, The Tree... TRiO Upward Bound received an $800,000 grant award to provide academic instruction, advising, counseling, tutoring, and mentoring to 50 eligible students from Kearny High School. In May 2003, the program was refunded with an award of $938,496 for another four years (2003-2007). A federal TRiO program, USD Upward Bound is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a competitive grant competition every four years.

Theme: The Rock, The River, The Tree

Our Upward Bound program strives to create an educational and multicultural learning community of students who demonstrate a strong desire to participate in higher education. Students, families, and staff involved in USD Upward Bound engage in a highly motivational, relevant, challenging, and empowering curriculum which promotes a deeper personal and cross-cultural understanding through reflecting upon The Rock, The River, The Tree… and what each of these elements represents.

  • Rock activities assess and enhance academic foundations, particularly writing and language skills.
  • River activities help students articulate the values they hold, and how those values influence self-esteem, aspirations, and behaviors.
  • Tree activities help students' families to target a course for and encourage educational achievement, in a supportive network with other families, as well as strengthen students' membership in their community and global families, and increase cultural competency skills. We are all here to examine our place in life, the roots that keep us grounded, and the experiences that help us to grow and change.

This is the challenge of Upward Bound.

Through the application of the core subjects: math, English, English as a Second Language, sciences, social sciences, as well as computer technology and personal enrichment courses, students will identify, explore, and develop their personal and academic strengths. The summer residential component provides a safe, trusting learning environment that stresses a holistic concern for the social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being of the student. It also provides opportunities for individual and group empowerment as well as academic accomplishment.

The USD Upward Bound educational community provides students, their families, and staff with a sense of belonging and pride that empowers them throughout their lives.

Program Creed

I am a part of the fellowship of Upward Bound. I have the power of knowledge. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I will go to college. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or back away. I am Upward Bound.

My past is my foundation, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I am Upward Bound, and my goal is a college diploma.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is a college degree, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I am Upward Bound, and my goal is a college diploma.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, studied up, paid up, for the cause of education. I am Upward Bound, and my goal is a college diploma.