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Upward Bound

Symposium participants
The higher education team proposed ways to support first-generation students.

The civil rights injunction to “lift as you climb”—to bring others with you as you succeed—inspired an extracurricular program piloted at COE last spring. Lift As You Climb (LAYC) is “an intergenerational collective of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, alumni, staff and faculty who focus on social justice within education,” says Rebecca Michel, assistant professor of counseling.

Led by Joby Gardner, associate professor of educational leadership, three teams brainstormed ideas, conducted research and implemented initiatives focused on literacy, higher education, and community building and restorative justice.

Graduate counseling student Meg Seth joined the higher education team to seek ways to improve retention and graduation among first-generation college students. The group presented its findings and recommendations, which included a mentoring program and a new student organization, to DePaul’s Office of Multicultural Student Success.

We want to empower all of us to work beyond college and school walls to improve educational opportunities across Chicago.”
–Joby Garner

Seth found the experience deeply rewarding and an excellent introduction to graduate-level research. “As much as I love one-on-one counseling, I do believe that if we don’t work outside of our counseling relationships to help the world our clients are in, then we’re not really making as big of a change as we could,” Seth says.

The literacy team, led by Thomas Noel, assistant professor of educational leadership, collected several hundred books and distributed them through Marquette Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side. The community-building team conducted interviews and created a podcast.

LAYC works on many levels, Michel says. COE will use student data from the pilot to support all students at the college and refine the program. “One of the impacts that we’re hoping to have on student ‘lifters’ is their own leadership development and their own student success,” she says.

Kimberly Lloyd
Doctoral candidate Kimberly Lloyd helped students like this one choose new books.
“We hope Lift improves student retention, especially among students who struggle to connect at college, and gives educators, alumni, faculty and staff additional opportunities to work with resilient communities on social issues,” Gardner adds. “We want to empower all of us to work beyond college and school walls to improve educational opportunities across Chicago.”

Breanna Adams (MEd ’11) is eager to volunteer for another session. The founder of the Better Together Educator Collaborative and a former school counselor, she appreciated the opportunity to reflect on needs and solutions. “Our community-building team encompassed such a broad range of experience and interests. To be able to talk and discuss and process was really valuable,” she says. “I would love to see iterations of this everywhere.”

LAYC is seeking funding to continue the projects started last spring. To contribute, contact Sally Julian at

For more information or to participate in LAYC, contact Gardner at ​