How Upward Bound Impacted My Life

I was born in Houston but when I was 11 months old my mother sent me to West Africa to live with my grandmother. I come from a royal family in a village in Ghana and she wanted me to learn the culture and the language. However, due to my grandmother’s failing health and her wish that I get a better education in America, I returned in 2015, right in the middle of the school year.

I was enrolled in Sharpstown High School and knew very little about the American education system. I will be forever thankful that the Lord led me to the College Career Center that day. That is when I met the advisor of The Salvation Army’s Upward Bound program. I still don’t know what the advisor saw in me but I’m glad she approached me and recruited me. At first, I was reluctant to join but, after much deliberation, I submitted my application and got accepted.

My Experience in Upward Bound

The Upward Bound program opened a whole new chapter in my life! It got me out of my comfort zone. I used to be shy and afraid to speak in public because I thought people would make fun of my thick African accent, and sometimes I stuttered. Upward Bound helped me gain confidence and get comfortable speaking in public, since we had to participate in group discussions all the time.

Thanks to their support, I not only did well in school but also became the secretary and then the interim vice president of Upward Bound. I even had the pleasure of serving as host during Upward Bound’s 2017 End-of-Year Banquet. That’s how far I have come along! A few years back I was scared to walk through a crowd and now I can talk in front of a large audience.

College Bound

Upward Bound also helped me make one of the biggest decisions in my life: college. I knew I wanted to enroll in a four-year university but the question was what college and what would I major in?

Upward Bound took us on visits to several college campuses like Prairie View A&M, Clark Atlanta University, Baylor, University of Houston, Florida State University, and many more. Thanks to these visits, it broadened my college options and encouraged me find the one that was right for me. That’s why I decided to continue my education at the illustrious Prairie View A&M, where I will be double majoring in Education and Mass Media Arts. I have decided to pursue a career in education because I want to positively impact the lives of other students just like my teachers and advisors did me.

Bound for Success

Thanks to Upward Bound and all the teachers who supported me, I had a lot of success in high school. I served as the Senior Class President, I was a Student Council Representative, I was the Apollo News Director, I was the yearbook’s Editor-in-Chief. These are just a few of the leadership positions I filled. I can boldly and confidently say that Upward Bound played a huge role in my life. Thanks to my involvement, I have achieved all I have. Now that I’ve graduated from high school and I am getting ready to head off to college, I look back and see how far I’ve come along.

I entered the Upward Bound program timid, reserved and concealed; I leave confident, strong and empowered. I entered as a boy who didn’t know what to do with his life; I leave as a young man who knows his worth and knows never to give up. Today, I understand the power of self-confidence and am forever grateful that they pushed me to achieve more than I ever thought I could. They have made me a better person and thanks to them I know I am ready and prepared to take on this next chapter of my life. I highly encourage everyone to join this program because I know that the amazing staff will make a difference in their life too.

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s Upward Bound Math Science Program, click here.

About the Author

Jojo Mill-Graves was born in Houston, Texas but was raised in Ghana, West Africa. He returned to the states in 2015 to finish his secondary education. Jojo was a member of The Salvation Army’s Upward Bound college preparatory program for 3 years at Sharpstown High School, where he served as Secretary and Interim Vice President. He graduated from Sharpstown in 2018 with two endorsements (areas of focus) in Business/Industry and Multidisciplinary. He also served as the Senior Class President and is currently serving as Sharpstown Class of 2018 Alumni President. Jojo will be continuing his education at Prairie View A&M University and is pursuing a double major in Education and Mass Media Arts.