At-risk teens to lose funding for program in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

At-risk teens to lose funding for program in Dubuque

Dubuque Senior High School students work on homework at the Upward Bound study session Dubuque Senior High School students work on homework at the Upward Bound study session

A federal program that helps at-risk high school students succeed is pulling funding from half of its Iowa locations.

It's called TRIO Upward Bound, a nationwide program that helps high school students from low-income families or those whose parents didn't graduate from college. One of the locations losing funding is Dubuque.

Arlena Cheatham is a sophomore in TRIO Upward Bound at Dubuque Senior High School.

"I do want to go to college. My dream is to become a pediatrician," she said Thursday afternoon at an Upward Bound after-school study session.

Her older sister, a 19-year-old University of Dubuque student, is Cheatham's only family so far who has been to college.

Tine Streif is the director of Dubuque's Upward Bound program, which has been around since 2003 and currently serves 50 high school students in the district.

"A lot of them grew up in poverty, so to get them out of the cycle of poverty, education is the key, and a lot of them don't believe they can do it without a program like this," Streif said.

In Dubuque, however, TRIO Upward Bound's funding is gone after August. In the most recent grant application cycle, the federal government gave priority to schools considered "failing" under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dubuque, along with eight other Upward Bound programs in Iowa, didn't make the cut. Next school year, only eight of the state's 17 programs will exist.

"It seems like an unfair advantage to those schools that maybe are already getting money poured into them because they are failing and then our students that are here in a good school district, trying to just survive and make it have that taken away from them," Streif said.

For students such as Cheatham, this development means an unclear future.

"If I didn't have TRIO, then, you know, I would be skeptical if I'm going to go to college," Cheatham said. "If I didn't' have TRIO, I wouldn't have the confidence that I have, I wouldn't have the friends that I do."

Now, Streif is asking supporters to contact Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

"Harkin's the head of appropriations," Streif said. "He will be in charge of that committee that will sit down and talk about where money's going to go, so he would have some power to make sure these services are continuing here in Iowa."

In a written statement Thursday, Harkin said he has seen the positive impact TRIO makes in the lives of Iowa students.

"That is why I fought to secure a $14 million increase for the program last year," Harkin wrote. "My staff has been in contact with the Department of Education to ensure that the application process for the latest round of TRIO grants was balanced."

Upward Bound in Dubuque has served 177 students since its 2003 inception.

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