News » D.C. Students Are Upward Bound at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences

D.C. Students Are Upward Bound at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Fun fact: The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is the only medical school in the country to host an Upward Bound program.

It’s a piece of information that Jessica Castillo, program director and Upward Bound alumna, enjoys sharing to emphasize how special the program at SMHS is.

Upward Bound, which the school has hosted for more than two decade, got its start after Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. It falls under the umbrella of federal TRIO programs, which are devoted to providing access and exposure for potential first-generation college students and/or low income families.

While the program is hosted by the medical school, Castillo explained, it is a traditional Upward Bound program. “A number of students who apply to the program express interest in the medical and allied health careers,” Castillo explained, “Our program identifies those students and offers them extensive exposure and accessibility to these disciplines through career fairs, professional seminars, college tours, classroom instruction, and a potential for mentorship by a working professional in their field of interest.”

Castillo also pointed out that the medical school setting provides benefits for those students who are not aspiring medical students, but have skills that can be applied to medicine. “Our students are exposed to the business and operations side of medicine when they arrive in Ross Hall every day for classes,” she said. “Through access to various departments such as information technology, human resources, and higher administration, students see that you don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse to work in the medical field. This is essential to the demographic of students that I work with. We expose our students to professional tracks for success in a timeless field like medicine that will always have a high demand.”

Upward Bound, which runs year-round with a six-week comprehensive summer program, also provides students with cultural exposure, introducing them to their own communities through field trips to museums and other local landmarks at no cost.

Since its start at SMHS, Upward Bound has serviced D.C. public school students in Wards 5, 6, and 7 and some parts of Ward 8. “We are committed to providing supplemental education, extracurricular resources, and opportunities to help a population that is the first generation in their families to attend college,” explained Castillo. “We assist with academic advising, the application process, SAT preparation, after school tutoring, service learning/community service projects, personal development skills training, job shadowing, and professional mentorship opportunities, as well as scholarship and financial aid assistance.”

Upward Bound prioritizes college visits, as well. “We take two regional campus tours per academic year; this summer we are going to Philadelphia to visit Posse and D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant affiliated universities,” she said. “The identified schools range in ranking and size from Ivy League, state schools, community colleges, and HBCU; there is something for every student profile to explore.”

What makes Upward Bound special, Castillo added, is the dedication to students. “It’s important for us to get to know the student one-on-one and figure out what this person’s needs are,” she explained. “We tailor the program to their needs and also work to meet the needs of SMHS and the requirements laid out by the Department of Education.”

Since she began her work with the program, Castillo has seen Upward Bound acquire more recognition within the SMHS community and opportunities for partnerships. “We work actively to collaborate with the university and the Foggy Bottom community,” she said.

The 2017 Upward Bound summer institute program wraps up on-campus activities on July 28. To learn more about the Upward Bound program at SMHS, visit