BARSTOW — Barstow Community College Superintendent/President Dr. Debbie DiThomas said the college has applied for a multi-million dollar Upward Bound grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Upward Bound is one of eight so-called TRIO programs funded by the federal government designed to identify and provide services for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Upward Bound serves high school students from low-income families and from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. Its aim is to help students not only graduate from high school, but also gain entry to and graduate from four-year colleges and universities.

"The Upward Bound grant is like $5 million over five years," DiThomas told the Desert Dispatch. "It is probably one of the best programs I've seen as a college administrator.

"The model I like — and I'm working with Jeff Malan and Barstow Unified School District — includes lower socio-economic districts. We've submitted that grant application already and we're going to hear in the next few months" if BCC will get it, probably by mid- to late spring.

DiThomas said the Upward Bound program is very structured, even more structured than the AVID program. She said it is for a maximum of 60 students.

"The hope is you attract different students (than AVID), so you reach more students," she said. "And usually you keep getting the grant if you get it once."

DiThomas raved about the program.

"It allows you to have an on-site program where you bring kids on campus and get them ready for a (four-year) college," she said. "It takes them from the time they're freshmen until they're seniors and it's intense. It requires the parents to sign an agreement.

"You can't believe the difference it makes. Not only does it make a difference in the lives of the kids, but it affects their whole families."

DiThomas said Upward Bound features Saturday and summer programs, which requires teachers to be available for both. Some of the grant money is used to pay the teachers, as well as a full-time program director.

Steve Hunt can be reached at 760-951-6270 or at Follow him on Twitter at @stevehunteditor.