Project Promise Part 2: From UYP Participant to Baylor Student
(This is part two of a three part series about “Project Promise” a Baylor School of Education initiative funded by a grant from the City of Waco. The program provides summer enrichment opportunities for gifted students in grades 4-12 who come from low-income households. Click here to read Part 1.)
By Kianna Ford
As a teenager, I remember pacing around the living room with my brother waiting for the squeaky, golden bus to pick us up for the first day of University for Young People. As we approached the Baylor campus, my heart grew increasingly more excited. I couldn’t wait to step off the bus and be greeted by the Project Promise mentors.
University for Young People, “UYP” for short, is a summer enrichment program for gifted students, grades 4-12, from Waco and the surrounding area. Students who participate in UYP get to come to Baylor campus and take special classes for young people. There are dozens to choose from. You can take one in the morning and one in the afternoon. “Project Promise” is an initiative funded through the City of Waco by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). This program helps gifted students from low-income households participate in UYP.
In my first year, I will admit, I took the camp for granted. I thought about it as just another summer camp, something to force me out of the house for the summer. Each summer after my first year, however, I found myself scrambling through the mail for the course catalog. The last day of my final year at UYP hit me hard. I was very emotional that day and I cried a lot. In that moment, I knew that UYP was much more than just a summer camp.
Now, as a Baylor student, my job is serving as the office manager for the Center for Community Learning and Enrichment; that’s the office at Baylor that runs UYP and Project Promise. The first day of UYP is a little different for me now. I walk into my office answering parents’ questions, preparing roll sheets, and helping the mentors prepare for the moment the students step off of the bus just like I did. Behind the scenes of UYP is a tough job, but it is very fulfilling to see the students have the same opportunity I had. It also feels good to step back on the last day as the final bus rolls out and know that I contributed to something that will change their lives.
UYP was great because it helped me discover my interests and strengths. My first year, I took a poetry class and one of my poems was published in a book. I had no idea that I had a gift for writing. I continued to write throughout my years in school, perfecting my craft. Now I am journalism student at Baylor. I will use the skill I discovered in UYP in my career.
Project Promise gives under-privileged students an extra boost of confidence they often times need. It is hard to believe you will be successful when there are so many socioeconomic factors holding you back. When others tell low-income kids they can’t, Project Promise reassures them that they can.
I am very proud to say I was a Project Promise student. It gave me a great foundation to sprout into the scholar I am today. I hope that my role as office manager, student, and former attendee will encourage at least one child to continue her (or his) education, and will encourage her to give back to people who contributed to her success.
Kianna Ford is a former University for Young People and Project Promise student. She is a Waco native and is now a Junior at Baylor University majoring in Journalism with a Public Relations Concentration. She has worked as the office manager for UYP for two summers.