Powerful potential

Alums inspire next generation through Upward Bound program

Holland, Colon-Rivera, Spivey, Aneke

Posted 3:49 p.m. Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A quartet of alums are helping La Crosse area high school students realize their dreams of a college education.

The Upward Bound staff — Shaundel Spivey, Jazz Holland, Caleb Colon-Rivera and Meki Aneke — all attended UWL before returning as young professionals. Now, they run the university’s federally funded TRIO program that supports eligible high school students transitioning to college.

A quartet of alums are helping La Crosse area high school students realize their dreams of a college education through the Upward Bound. They include, from left, Caleb Colon-Rivera, ’18; Meki Aneke, ’16; Jazz Holland, ’15; and Shaundel Spivey, ’12 & ’15.

“As a little Black kid in the city of Milwaukee, I had various mentors in my life who pushed me and shaped me,” says Spivey, ’12 & ’15, director of the program. “I want to give back to the community and local youth, and Upward Bound is a great program that can give them the tools to not only excel, but also be able to navigate their way through society.”

Upward Bound serves more than 60 students in La Crosse County by offering weekly tutoring sessions, test prep, personal and career advising, leadership, college and career exploration, and more. The program also helps students struggling with the ACT and college application fees, and other high ed expenses.

Upward Bound staff say they enjoy their work for many reasons, but especially for the chance to harness the powerful potential of young people.

Caleb Colon-Rivera, ’18

“One thing we always say is that we are the students’ cheerleaders. We help them help themselves and give them the tools to be great,” notes Caleb Colon-Rivera, ’18, program assistant. “Once they have the tools to successfully navigate the world and have a firm foundation with a community that supports and believes in them, they can do anything.”

Meki Aneke, ’16, lead advisor, says he loves his job for the same reason.

“Being able to guide and follow the student through their journey of high school all the way to entering college … is the best part of the job,” he says. It’s fulfilling to “watch them make great decisions and take charge of their future.”

Meki Aneke, ’16

Two members of the team — Spivey and Holland — are uniquely qualified. They were once Upward Bound students themselves.

Spivey participated in Marquette University’s math and science program, while Holland was with UW-Milwaukee’s math and science program.

Shaundel Spivey, ’12 & ’15

“Upward Bound was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Holland, ’15, assistant director of the program.

Upward Bound eased her anxiety about college, she says, while giving her parents, who have nine other children, a well-deserved break.

“I was able to travel all across the nation, meet amazing students from my city and was paid for working hard to accomplish my goals,” she explains. “I am still connected with some of my Upward Bound friends today. I encourage all students who qualify to join their local Upward Bound or pre-college program.”

Jazz Holland, ’15

For Spivey, Holland, Colon-Rivera and Aneke, UWL was the perfect fit — a place where they could pursue their passions and be part of a tight-knit campus community.

“I absolutely loved it,” Colon-Rivera says. “It had the small-town feel, but was big enough to always meet someone new.”

Holland agrees.

“I decided to come to UWL because there was an Admissions counselor, Vickie Sanchez, who really made me feel welcomed and wanted at the institution,” she says. “This was different from what I had received from other schools, where I felt more like a number rather than a person.”

Driving diversity

UWL’s Shaundel Spivey, ’12 & ’15, has been named to the governor’s advisory council.