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Linda Beattie Randall ’91 MEd was only fifteen years old when she left her small hilltown of Cheshire, MA for the Upward Bound program at UMass Amherst. Her nerves faded quickly as she joined in with hundreds of kids who, like herself, were low-income, first generation college-bound students eager to learn.  “It was a transformative experience,” says Randall “and difficult to convey the depth of the bonds and the intangible gifts we received by way of our participation.”

For the first time in her life, Randall was away from home and experiencing new cultures. To set the stage, when I arrived at Upward Bound in the summer of 1971, the breakdown of the student body was approximately 85% black, 12% white and 3% Latino. The majority of the students came from urban areas, mostly Springfield and Holyoke, but we drew our rural population from all over Western Mass,” she notes.

 “I was immediately intrigued. My awareness about so many things exploded that summer and I have never been the same. This Upward Bound family taught me about the depth of the human experience and was a striking contrast to the turmoil in our society, then and now.”

Upward Bound, one of the original federally funded TRiO programs, was launched in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. The program came to UMass Amherst in 1966. The goal of the program is to provide low-income, first generation high school students with college potential the tools to successfully complete their secondary education and prepare them academically and socially for enrollment and completion of higher education.

Counselors meet with the students year-round to provide guidance and support. The students also participate in academic enrichment courses during a six-week Summer Institute held on the Amherst campus. “I remember taking a rhetoric class that I just loved,” says Randall.

On track to enroll in college, Randall experienced a devastating loss during her senior year of high school when her father committed suicide. Having received a full scholarship, she enrolled at UMass in the fall of 1973 but her studies suffered as she tried to deal with her grief. She credits her ties to Upward Bound as life-saving.

“I almost flunked out of school but in a last ditch effort to resuscitate my academic career, I was allowed to enroll in the university’s Year for ACTION program through Vista to perform community service,” Randall shares. “ In a wonderful twist, I became an Upward Bound caseworker for students in Holyoke and Hampshire County. My spirit was renewed as I poured into the next generation the support and vision that had been given me by my beloved Upward Bound.”

Randall completed her associate’s degree at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and went on to earn a master’s degree from the UMass Amherst College of Education in 1991. For the next twenty years, she continued to advise, counsel and teach at STCC.  She also served as a diversity consultant throughout Western Massachusetts. Currently, Randall is the director of the Academic Resource Center at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, GA.

Despite the distance, Randall’s ties to the Pioneer Valley and the Upward Bound program at UMass remain strong.  “The Upward Bound story is always about coming home... to oneself, one’s calling, one’s destiny. There’s no place like home.”

In October, Randall and fellow Upward Bound alumni will hold a 50th Reunion Celebration. Highlights include professional development workshops, a gathering with current students and a banquet dinner to honor Victor Woolridge ’80, chair of the UMass Board of Trustees and Upward Bound alumnus. Register today to attend the Upward Bound 50th Reunion Celebration.  All are welcome!

By Elena Lamontagne