Area high school students a part of Concordia College’s Upward Bound summer Bridge program, stand with their mentor and former Upward Bound graduate John Towns (fourth from left) Tuesday. The program gives high school seniors the chance to earn college credit and experience college life while in high school. -- Desiree Taylor

Program helps students earn credit

Published 9:03pm Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Most individuals who grow up in small towns may find prosperity and success elsewhere, but Selma native John Towns chose to come back to his hometown to make a difference.

A 2005 Selma High and Concordia College Upward Bound graduate, Towns returned to Selma this summer as one of 10 counselors for the school’s Bridge program, a free six-week program that gives area high school students a chance to earn college credit and experience college life before graduation.

“This program got me where I am now, and the people who’ve helped me are still here,” Towns said. “It’s such a blessing to be able to work for people I looked up to for so long. It’s prepared me for what I’m doing now — secondary education — and I can get an up close and personal view of the kids I’ll be around. What a privilege to work with them this summer.”

Towns, a junior at Alabama State University, said the program helps to build strong relationships between students and teachers.

“Because I’m living on campus, I can experience the same things the students do and the relationship is not just a student-and-teacher one, but as a friend,” Towns said.  “Someone took time out to give to me and I feel I can do the same.”

Upward Bound, a federally-funded program that provides college-life experience to low-income high school and would-be first-generation college students, is a chance for students to excel and be successful beyond high school.

“The majority of our students have potential but need someone to motivate them and bring it out as they go forward,” said program director Ronnie Harrison. “John is teaching our young men that they have a responsibility to leave high school behind by ‘manning up’ and going to class.”

Harrison also said Towns’ return is beneficial to the students and he’s excited.

“Students who’ve graduated from college or who are going to college can motivate other students as a counselor,” Harrison said. “They can let them know, ‘Hey, I’ve been where you are, and I know how it is.’”

Towns said the program has made a difference in his own life and will do so in the lives of others.

“Mr. Harrison and others have helped me become the person I am,” Towns said. “This program pushes you forward, and you can strive to do better in fields (subjects) where you’re weak. It also prepares you for college.

“The program gives young men a better chance to see what they can achieve when they put their minds to something,” Towns said. “You don’t have to be in the streets, but you can go to college and be successful.”

The program ends July 11.

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