photo of Amanda Mellenberger

Looking back, I believe the biggest impact that Upward Bound had on my successes was the continued involvement during the summer programs.
Amanda (Meeks) Mellenberger
Everett High School, Lansing, MI – Class of 1990

I was not aware of the Upward Bound program until my high school counselor informed me that I had been selected as a candidate to join.  I have always been an opportunist and welcomed the invitation with open arms. 

Looking back, I believe the biggest impact that Upward Bound had on my successes was the continued involvement during the summer programs.  We were invited to live on campus for a few weeks and get the feel for college life.  Additionally, we attended classes that were preparing us for the following school year.  The two summer classes that were most beneficial for me were geometry and American literature.  At the start of my geometry class in the fall, I was already familiar with the concepts, which I believe provided me the drive, as well as an advantage, to succeed.  In the American literature summer class, Mrs. Johnnie Eiland taught me a structured format for writing a persuasive theme paper.  That structure facilitated my analytical mind to easily organize my thoughts and ultimately become a better writer.  I truly believe these preparatory classes facilitated me becoming class valedictorian.

Upon graduation from high school, Glenda Hammond and Sandra Firestone, from the MSU Upward Bound program, recommended me for an internship with the MSU Department of Chemical Engineering.  As a freshman, I chose and stuck with the Chemical Engineering major from the very beginning, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from MSU. Upward Bound provided me with a lot of tools that helped me think about what I wanted to do when I grew up.  One in particular was an assessment evaluating what we thought were important values in choosing our career.  I believe that internship opportunity was the cornerstone for developing strong relationships with the staff and graduate students throughout my six-year tenure at MSU. 

My favorite memory from Upward Bound is the summer trip we took to Washington, D.C.  Through that trip, I absorbed a deeper understanding of our history and government.  It was exciting to go on a trip with kids from all three major Lansing high schools and to go so far away from home creating wonderful, lasting memories.  While we didn’t all know each other very well before Upward Bound, we were able to bond with each other and develop lasting friendships while, at the same time, lessening the rivalry between our high schools.

Participating in Upward Bound definitely energized me to appreciate the power of continuous learning.  The experience cemented me to own my development beyond school.  Most recently, I obtained certifications in Project Management and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.  Aside from formal training, Upward Bound also helped me develop the confidence to challenge my management with poise by seeking to understand their decisions I wouldn’t necessarily have made. 

I currently work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina in Durham, NC as a Business Process Consultant.  My responsibilities include mapping processes and eliminating waste within the Sales and Marketing division by integrating the computer systems.  My Lean Six Sigma training has helped me reduce process variability and solve problems.  On one particular project, I saved the company $3.4 million per year.  That accomplishment made me feel like a contributing team member and empowered me to continue suggesting more ideas to save time and money.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Upward Bound program and would tell high school kids today not to miss the opportunity to develop a support system and change your life.  It may seem crazy to spend more time on school after hours and during the summer, but the return on your time invested is well worth it and will guide you to accomplishing your goals with success.