Thompson and Misgina also convinced their friends to join by telling them about the variety of programs and opportunities offered to students.
DeVol Tyson II, an academic coordinator at Upward Bound, said with the Kelley Challenge, in particular, they can help students gain experience in group work and public speaking that they will use during their college experience.
“One thing that students will want to get to know is working in groups and bringing together their individual knowledge for a collective assignment,” Tyson II said. “As they get ready for college, a lot of assignments in college are group projects, so it’s good practice for them to work on that now.”
Roxanne Gregg, the director at IUPUI Upward Bound, also said that programming like this helps students build a toolkit of soft skills.
Enjoli Hampton-Brown, the associate director of professional development and engagement at Kelley Indianapolis Career Services, spoke about the growth of the program over last two summers.
“Last year, only 16 students participated. This year there were 40 students, as the program was opened to sophomores and juniors,” Hampton-Brown said.
Along with the increase of students involved, the program was extended from a two-day format to a week-long format to allow for more wrap-around programming that would allow students to truly engage with case companies, according to Hampton-Brown.
The Kelley Challenge isn’t only able to be applied to Upward Bound, but to any program that would like to do a project like this with the help of Kelley Indianapolis Career Services.
“The Kelley Challenge is a high school initiative that the Kelley Indianapolis Career Services developed,” Hampton-Brown said. “Our employer partners are eager to build their early talent pipeline and get into high schools to develop brand awareness"
Although the program has taken place online due to COVID-19, the pandemic has helped improve the program in ways that may not have happened without it.
“2020 turned everyone into experts or semi-experts in digital programming,” Tyson II said. “Now they are expected to know how to log into a Zoom platform. As they go back into the classroom, they are now equipped with a new skill that they didn’t think they were going to have.”
Gregg also pointed out that before the pandemic, the program was limited to certain employers due to time commitments. After the pandemic, the variety of employer options expanded.
“This being virtual allowed students to experience a variety of different things,” Gregg said. “It was more attainable to get a lawyer. It was more attainable to get five people from Anthem to sit on a zoom call or five people from Geico from various areas in the company to come.”
Along with the program’s recent improvements, both the students and Kelley Challenge staff had amazing things to say about student support.
“I feel like everybody equally helped us all around. I mean, my mentors were wishing me luck,” Thompson said. “I know DeVol and Roxanne were always here to answer questions, even like the staff from Kelley were there to help and to help with any questions that we had."
Russell echoed Thompson’s statements on student support, saying that staff like Tyson II and Gregg check on students throughout the year and are extremely supportive.
Gregg shouted out to the DUE staff for their efforts throughout the Summer Experience that supported students and emphasized how IUPUI Upward Bound plans to continue to partner with DUE in the future to expand future programming.
“Missy Cooper, who is an avid champion of our program, presented about majors,” Gregg said. “Brandy Gilbert hosted the internship roundtable.”
The Kelley Challenge staff themselves also found that they all enjoyed how everyone supported the students. Both Gregg and Tyson II agreed that Hampton-Brown was amazing, and Hampton-Brown applauded their efforts.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Hampton-Brown said.
Along with planning to continue the Kelley Challenge, Upward Bound is excited about the prospect of future partnerships due to the benefits these types of programs can bring to students.
“You reap a lot by partnering with high school students. You reap so much more by the ability to make a difference in a student’s life,” Gregg said. “You’re opening their eyes to what is out there.”