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Community Outreach, Diversity, General Information, Honors & Awards, Media Advisory

LSU Upward Bound Sweeps Awards at SWASAP Student Leadership Conference

10/18/2013 01:52 PM

BATON ROUGE – LSU Upward Bound advances into its second year at the university and has started the new academic year in full force by taking its junior and senior high school students to the Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs, or SWASAP, Student Leadership Conference in Hawkins, Texas.

The conference focused on redefining student leadership skills, while focusing on service towards others, overall well-being, self-advocacy, and the power of a positive outlook.  Conference participants, all coming from regional TRIO programs, were encouraged to submit a competitive essay addressing each of these topics for judging prior to attending the conference. LSU Upward Bound students swept the student awards ceremony.  

SWASAP awarded a total of $5,850 for the pre-college essay competition along with a bonus of 7 iPad Minis. In total, LSU Upward Bound students received $1,800 and two iPad Minis for their achievements, bringing home more than one-third of the pre-college competitive essay award dollars given at the conference. Every LSU Upward Bound student that entered the competition came home with an award.   

Of the seven grand prize winners for the essay competition to receive cash awards and an iPad Mini, LSU Upward Bound students Umer Iqbal and Laura Valerio won 3rd and 4th place respectively, each winning a  cash award of $250 and an iPad Mini.  

“Commitment is the very foundation of being a great leader, and it means giving a piece of ourselves in what we do,” stated Iqbal.  
Valerio added, “My only goal is to motivate others to create a better version of who they already are.”

Six more LSU Upward Bound students went on to win $200 each for their essays:  Taylor Behrnes, Melissa Blatcher, Tia Fisher, Vivian Ho, Kayla Mackey, and Yashika Ricks.  Amaris Bridgewater was also awarded $100 for Visual Leadership.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy.  Our students work hard and strive to do their best.  I’m honored and grateful to be able to work with them,” said Stephanie Givens, director of LSU Upward Bound.  “I hope the positive feedback they received from this experience will resonate and generate a strong momentum for them to continue in their academics as they finish high school and prepare for college.”

In 2012, LSU Upward Bound was awarded a $1.25 million five-year federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education.  LSU Upward Bound is an early intervention program that effectively assists high school students in grades 9-12 from Tara High School in Baton Rouge, La. LSU Upward Bound’s objective is to holistically motivate and provide students with a comprehensive skillset needed to obtain a college degree. LSU Upward Bound aligns with LSU’s Flagship 2020 Agenda, and is actively transforming lives every day. For more information, visit

Upward Bound is a TRiO program that has existed nationally since 1964 with the mission to provide opportunity through education.

Upward Bound is operated in the LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives. For more information, visit

LSU Media Relations