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Health Education and Human SciencesJune 21, 2022

Rivas Forges Path to UAFS with Upward Bound

Written By: Samantha Contreras

“As our junior year came around, most of us felt defeated by the pandemic and the never-ending stress, but this year has been fundamentally different,” said Mayeli Rivas to excited listeners packing the football field during the Northside High School graduation ceremony in May. 

Rivas spent half her high school life battling her schoolwork and a global pandemic. But this fall, she will be attending the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith after completing the Upward Bound Math-Science program.  

 “Despite all the odds, including Covid-19, endless snow days, virtual learning – we are here today,” Rivas said at commencement. She was one of three students selected for the honor of addressing attendees at commencement following a competition.

When Rivas’ parents left their hometown in El Salvador, she said, they wanted her to focus on her education and live a fulfilling life in America.

“As I look back in my past, I think about how much the Upward Bound Math-Science program has shaped me as a person,” Rivas said recently. “I was able to make life-long friends and mentors who would be there to help me through every up and down.”

Upward Bound Math-Science is a federally funded educational program that serves high school participants who excel in fields related to math and science. They receive special tutoring, counseling, and extensive support to help them develop the skills and motivation necessary to succeed in college.

The director of TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science at UAFS, Christin Staats, had much to say about this incoming first-year student. She said Rivas has always been a leader and a positive role model for all the younger students in the program.

 “I knew when we interviewed her as a ninth-grader at Darby Junior High that she was a unique student. From the start, she had a thirst for knowledge and a level of maturity which was rare for a young student,” said Staats.

Rivas said her parents’ encouragement played a significant role in attending college because she will be the first-generation college student in her family. “They knew nothing application-wise. I want to set an example for my siblings,” said Rivas. 

“Many of my friends ask me questions about college, and now, the Upward Bound Math-Science program gave me the confidence to answer those questions,” Rivas said.