Motivating Words from Congressman Tony Cardenas at Upward Bound’s Summer Reception

  • Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Photo by David Hawkins.

On July 17, U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas was the keynote speaker at a California State University, Northridge celebration honoring the accomplishments of a group of students in CSUN’s federally funded Upward Bound program.

The program’s aim is to increase high school graduation rates for those who are interested in college. The reception highlighted student testimonials, student performances, as well as recognition of completion of the summer program.

During the six-week Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), students from three local schools – Birmingham Community Charter, Reseda and Sylmar High Schools – enrolled in math, English, science and elective courses taught on the CSUN campus. The classes were designed to better prepare the college hopefuls for the more rigorous course loads they’re to expect as post-secondary students.

It’s a test of courage that Congressman Cardenas said he feels is important for them to take.

“The Upward Bound program is an opportunity for you to prove that you belong right here on this campus and that this university was built for you,” Cardenas said. “All you have to do is want to be here. It’s an extension of the belief that you can be anything that you want to be.”

In addition to the academics, students also participated in study hall and a variety of workshops on such topics as career exploration, cultural diversity, dressing for success, health and nutrition. For three weeks, students resided and ate in the CSUN dorms and utilized the Student Recreation Center to give them a full college experience. Among the prerequisites to join the program is to be a low-income or first-generation college student, the type that doesn’t have everyday contact with people who’ve had that experience.

“Upward Bound encourages us to pursue our educational goals and use our time wisely to reach those goals,” said Danielle Alvarez, a student speaker from Birmingham Community Charter. “It has taught me that even though I come from a certain lifestyle, I can make a difference for myself and the people around me.”

It’s that message that Congressman Cardenas wanted to push to his audience of 21 graduates from this year’s Upward Bound class.

Cardenas was born in Pacoima, raised with 10 brothers and sisters and graduated from San Fernando High School, an area school just like them. He didn’t have the Upward Bound program to learn from, just his father, a gardener who often took him to work while growing up. It’s what taught him what hard work really meant and that a college education was the way to a better life.

“Young people,” he told the crowd, “when you get to college and when you decide to challenge yourself by pursuing higher education, you’re going to find out that you’re just as smart and very likely a lot tougher than your competition.

“You belong there. You will win and you will graduate.”

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