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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Going to college is not always on the horizon for high school students, but the University of Louisville is trying to help some local kids further their education.
More than $3 million in federal grant money will help the program continue for another five years.
"I spent the weekend in the Bahamas with the men's basketball team," Thomas Parker said, with a big grin on his face.
It seems like a dream for many -- being part of the University of Louisville basketball team -- but for Packer, it is reality. "I'm a senior at U of L, also a trainer for U of L's men's basketball team, also studying premed," he explained.
Going through the Upward Bound program as a high school student helped him get there. The program has been around since the 1960s. Now it is expanding, and this year, more than 130 high school students from freshmen to seniors are enrolled, including several at Southern High School.
They go to U of L's campus year-round for tutoring and participate in a summer program. "So they get the actual college experience in six weeks," explained Mary Thorpe, program director. "And then we also take them on a educational cultural field trip a weekend in New Orleans, last year we took them to Washington D.C., and we visited various museums and colleges."
A lot of the students end up at U of L, many with free rides. "The students have received scholarships from just about everywhere. Last year we had 28 seniors and they got over a million dollars in scholarships," said Thorpe.
Many of the students come from low-income households, and some are the first in their family to go to college. It is part of U of L's commitment to improve the quality of life for people in Louisville. "Almost all of these students have gone on and finished their college degree and again, the vast majority of these people have stayed and are working in our community," said Dr. James Ramsey, U of L President.
For some, the program has instilled a desire to dream bigger. Eventually, I'd like to become an orthopedic surgeon, go to medical school. The program has really helped build that confidence inside of me, to where I believe and I know that this is what I can do if I put in the work," said Packer.