Upward Bound, revisited

May 24, 2012 5:43 AM

Michaela Gibboni

Giving back to New Orleans is rewarding to many participants in Tulane’s public service programs, but having the opportunity to give back to your own community makes the experience even richer. Neuroscientist Monique Cola developed the service portion of her Brain and Behavior course to work with an organization with which she has a personal history: Upward Bound.


Monique Cola

Neuroscientist Monique Cola wants to increase science literacy among disadvantaged high school students, so she paired her Tulane service-learning course with the Upward Bound organization. (Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)

A national college preparatory program for high school students, Upward Bound targets students who will be in the first generation of their families to attend college. Upward Bound has six sites in various New Orleans college campuses. With the help of Cola, an assistant professor of neurology, the Tulane-based site serves her alma mater, Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, in addition to other Orleans Parish schools.

“Had I not participated in Upward Bound, I would not have gone to college,” says Cola.  As a self-proclaimed “science geek,” Cola is interested in increasing science literacy among disadvantaged students, an aspiration she brought to her new relationship with Upward Bound.

Cola’s Tulane students completed service with Upward Bound this semester by teaching science classes at the Saturday Academy. Using the brain as a launching point, the students tackled topics such as neuroanatomy, drugs, neurological disorders and sensory systems.

The program gave the opportunity for Upward Bound students to examine science from a new and interesting angle while also giving a chance for the Tulane student teachers to strengthen their own knowledge of class material.

The goal wasn’t to create a bunch of neuroscientists, Cola explains, but rather to prove that “science can be fun and interesting.” Hearing cries from the Upward Bound students of  “Y’all should be teachers!” and “I actually learned something!” at the end of the Tulane students’ weekly lessons, Cola concludes that the project was a success.

Michaela Gibboni graduated with a bachelor of arts from the Tulane School of Liberal Arts this May.

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