An Upward Bound Experience

2011 Highland College Upward Bound Michigan College/Cultural Tour

The last of the luggage was stowed, attendance double checked, and our driver welcomed the group on a bright July morning. The gleaming motor coach full of excited Highland Community College Upward Bound students and staff rolled away from the college campus, headed for the open road and a week-long Michigan adventure.

Upward Bound is a Federally – funded pre college program, under the TRIO umbrella, which assists first generation high school students in preparing for college. Following a rigorous year of ACT prep, application essays, career awareness workshops, academic endeavors, college and scholarship searches, community service and an intensive six week summer program, this group from Freeport, Illinois was embarking on a journey that would take us far away from the cacophony of our daily lives.

In addition to academics, one of the program’s goals is to expose participants to college visits and cultural experiences that broaden horizons and enrich lives. For more than twenty years, our UB students have traversed the Midwest. For the last two years, Bright Spark Travel has escorted us to Louisville as well as the 2011 Michigan trip which ranks as one of the most memorable in the history of this program.

What better way to start the journey than an overnight in the dorms at Western Michigan University, complete with bowling and a pizza party. However, the real adventure began with a canoe outing the second evening, paddling the winding Bear River. That proved to be an unforgettable and somewhat challenging experience (not to mention very wet) for some students, especially those not used to outdoor activities. They were all too happy to check into a cozy hotel at Mackinaw City for a hot shower and good night’s sleep.

How do you take it all in? Mackinaw City had so much to savor as we strolled to the ferry that would take us across the straits to the fairy tale Mackinac Island. The boat was a first for many students, and to view the fabulous Mackinac Bridge, a huge freighter and a schooner in full sail, all painted into one picture, was breathtaking. That was all before we even reached the island.

Picturesque St. Ann’s Church with its welcoming steeple greeted us as we entered a world with no motorized vehicles. Dock porters with luggage piled high on bicycles balanced their load through the crowds while the sweet fragrance of fudge shops permeated the air. The clip clop of horse hooves and the clinking of carriage wheels ushered us onto the magical main street of fanciful shops, elegant Victorian homes and B & Bs edged with pristine gardens. Rounding the island on bicycles and riding horses through the pungent piney wood forests gave students pause to experience a more reflective, simpler life. Our day was topped off by a wonderful lunch and tour of the graceful Grande Hotel.

The last leg of the adventure took us across the Mackinac Bridge into the wild and natural Upper Peninsula, on to woodland hiking and the powerful beauty of Tahquamenon Falls. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum with artifacts from the ill-fated freighter, the Edmond Fitzgerald, piqued the interest of some while others preferred sticking their toes into the chill of Lake Superior at the beach’s edge.

For staff, having the tour planned, along with a competent guide and night time security, alleviates a lot of stress and makes for much more enjoyable travel. As for the students, I suspect this trip could be one of those life stories that will someday make its way around the table to their children and even their grandchildren.


Sherry Maves
Administrative Assistant
Highland Community College Upward Bound

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