Participants in FSU’s Upward Bound Program achieve academic excellence during pandemic

FSU Gadsden County Upward Bound 12th-graders Lakenya Brown, Danielle Baker, Tee’Anna Weston and Ja’Mia Brown will begin the Florida State University CARE program in June. (FSU Upward Bound Program)
FSU Gadsden County Upward Bound 12th-graders Lakenya Brown, Danielle Baker, Tee’Anna Weston and Ja’Mia Brown will begin the Florida State University CARE program in June. (FSU Upward Bound Program)

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted K-12 schools nationwide and brought conversations about the “digital divide,” learning loss and low college enrollment rates for vulnerable student populations to the forefront of pressing issues in education, several local high school students didn’t miss a beat thanks to one Florida State University program.

Students participating in FSU’s Upward Bound Program at Gadsden County High School maintained high levels of excellence through the pandemic. The cohort of 12th-graders continued the program legacy of achieving a 100 percent graduation rate, with 95 percent committed to an institution of postsecondary education.

“While we continued to offer college advising and academic support, our primary focus this year was on student well-being, mentorship and offering other non-academic support to help students through a new learning environment,” said Inika Williams, director of FSU Upward Bound.

Upward Bound has provided college preparation to students living in or attending school in Gadsden County since 1989. The FSU-Gadsden program falls under the guidance of the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE), which provides preparation and support for first-generation college students at Florida State.

“I’m proud that, despite a pandemic, our students continued to meet the high expectations and standards of excellence that this program is known for achieving,” said DeOnte Brown, assistant dean of Undergraduate Studies and director of the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE). “Their achievements are the result of their determination, abilities and an outstanding support network.”

The program is designed to enhance the academic and personal skills of high school students while preparing them for college admission, retention and graduation. This unique opportunity exposes students to cultural and career activities and supplements their regular high school curriculum. The federally funded pre-college program is free to eligible students in Gadsden County.

From California to New York to Miami, FSU Upward Bound seniors have received more than 40 college admission offers from universities across the country. Of the cohort, 95 percent will graduate with a 3.0 GPA or higher, and three students have already earned associate degrees.

Ya’Mya Roberts, the 2021 valedictorian and a four-year Upward Bound participant who has committed to the University of Florida, made history when she became the first high school student in Gadsden County to complete the Tallahassee Community College Honors Program in May.

Tee’Anna Weston will attend FSU as part of CARE’s Summer Bridge Program in June. She credits the Upward Bound program with providing her the necessary steps to help prepare for college.

“I love that the staff is supportive and family-inclined,” Weston said.

The program celebrated its 12th-graders during the 2021 Senior Awards and Recognition Banquet Thursday, May 20, where students were recognized for their accomplishments and presented with a certificate of completion and graduation cords.

For more information on the FSU-CARE Upward Bound Program, visit or email Inika Williams at

This year’s Upward Bound graduates, along with the institution where they will further their education, are:

Tytiana Anderson (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University)

Danielle Baker (Florida State University)

Destini Brown (Georgia State University)

Ja’Mia Brown (Florida State University)

Lakenya Brown (Florida State University)

Mariela Castaneda (Tallahassee Community College)

Amiya Cox (Florida State University)

Gamiyah Germany (University of Florida)

Shaunterria Green (Pat Thomas Academy)

Zitlali Maldonado (Tallahassee Community College)

Jennifer Ramos (Tallahassee Community College)

Yazmin Reyes (Tallahassee Community College)

Ya’Mya Roberts (University of Florida)

Ja’Michael Stanley (TCC to FAMU)

Rontavious Thomas (TCC to FAMU)

Aniya Tribue (Florida State University)

Tee’Anna Weston (Florida State University)

Aajanae Williams (Tallahassee Community College)

Shantorria Williams (TCC to FSU)