Maine college students, including me, have benefited from what are called the TRIO programs, which started 50 years ago. These federal programs serve students who come from low-income homes and who are in the first generation of their families to go to college. Certain TRIO programs are designed specifically to help veterans go back to school. Unfortunately, in 2012 TRIO budgets and programs were cut nationwide. In fiscal year 2010, they received $904.27 million, but this was reduced to $878.94 million in 2011 and even further to $835.50 million in 2012.

At the University of Maine, the overall Upward Bound program was affected. The math and science division of UMaine’s Upward Bound program remains. However, the Upward Bound Classic program was cut in 2012 from the University of Maine campus altogether.

Upward Bound Classic program was designed more for students who might not want a career in the STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, fields. Though most of the funding has been restored for Upward Bound Math and Science here at UMaine, there is still no funding for the classic program, and these programs statewide are still only receiving enough money to help 5 to 7 percent of eligible students.

As an alumnus of the program, I know how much the Upward Bound Math and Science program helped me, and I believe these programs need to be there to help more eligible students. As both a first-generation and low-income student, Upward Bound Math and Science inspired me and pushed me to do well, and it gave me the resources and tools to achieve my dreams, such as being able to go to a four-year college and having the chance to give back and help others.

I was able to use Upward Bound Math and Science and the resources they offered to help me get into college. During my freshman year of high school, I never would have thought I was going to go to college. It was not a normal thing in my family. But once I talked to Upward Bound and had my first meeting, I was inspired to do well so I could accomplish something that has yet to be done in my family.

Without Upward Bound Math and Science at UMaine, I do not believe I would be in school today studying to be a social worker. Before learning about this program, I had every intention of going into the military. There certainly is nothing wrong with the military, but I am happy to have other options. I hope one day to help recruit high school students who stand where I once stood to go to college and achieve their goals.

I cannot stress enough how crucial these programs are. They are the difference between success and failure, having a bright future or not, for so many students in Maine and nationwide.

According to national studies, TRIO programs make a real difference for first generation low-income students and students with disabilities. Students who participated in Upward Bound were more likely to start and finish a college degree.

In analyzing the impact of the the Upward Bound Math and Science program, studies have found that students who participated were more likely to take chemistry and physics coursework in high school, improve grades in math and science, enroll in selective four-year institutions, major in math or science disciplines and complete four-year degrees in math or science.

Without these programs, far too many intelligent students with lots of talent and possibilities will be left without the means to develop and use them. The future of America rests on these young shoulders. With millions of students living their lives with untapped potential, the future of America seems pretty bleak. We must reinstate funding and support for Upward Bound and other similar programs. Otherwise, we will be preventing far too many students from achieving their potential and learning the skills needed to inherit the world that they will come into, all too soon.

Patrick Nason is an undergraduate student in social work at the University of Maine. He participated in Upward Bound Math and Science from 2012-2014.