WCSU helps celebrate 50 years of preparing students for college

DANBURY, CONN. Western Connecticut State University graduate Lissette Rivas had dreamed of being in the medical profession since she was child. Several years ago, Rivas became the first in her family to earn a college degree. Now that she is a full-time registered nurse, Rivas is giving back to the very program that helped her reach her goals.

This year Upward Bound — which sponsors federally funded programs nationwide including one in Danbury on the WCSU campus — is celebrating 50 years and Rivas and several other WCSU graduates are part of that celebration. For nearly 20 years, Western has supported students in the Danbury schools through a variety of programs including Upward Bound.

In June, 120 Upward Bound students from Danbury High School gathered on the university’s Midtown campus to begin their six-week summer program. There were 15 alumni there to help and, among them were WCSU graduates Rivas, Jessica Coraizaca and Ahsan Sherwani. WCSU sophomores Shiny Patel and Lisbeth Rivas were also volunteering their time in the summer program.

Rivas, Coraizaca and Sherwani all started in the EXCEL program, an opportunity for middle school students to develop their academic potential and then segued into the ConnCAP/Upward Bound program. The programs are part of the federally funded “TRIO,” designed to help students achieve their goal of admission into a post-secondary educational school. Students who qualify come from families where neither parent has completed a four-year college degree and/or low-income families whose taxable income is within the eligibility guidelines.

On the first day of celebration at Western, students gathered with their alumni leaders for a banner contest — with each team creating a banner to kick off the anniversary.

“I don’t know where I would have been without EXCEL/ConnCap,” Rivas said. The programs helped her see her potential by exposing her to new challenges and how to handle them successfully. She learned to apply for scholarships and how to handle herself in interviews. “I paid zero dollars for school,” she told the Upward Bound students.

Her sister, Lisbeth Rivas, was also a part of the event. Lisbeth is a sophomore at WCSU majoring in management and marketing. She, too, joined EXCEL in middle school and said it helped put her on the path to higher education.

“It trained me to be ready for college,” she said. “It helped me value myself. And I love that it’s at Western. It’s a home away from home for me.”

To view a Flickr set of images, go to www.flickr.com/photos/westconn/sets/72157645501392397/.



Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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