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Two RIC Upward Bound Alumni Honored for Professional Achievements

Edward Cooley, Upward Bound class of 1988, and head basketball coach at Providence College

Edward Cooley, Upward Bound class of 1988, and head basketball coach at Providence College

As Rhode Island College’s Upward Bound program prepares for its commencement this week, it can look back to two alumni who were recently honored for their professional achievements.

Alberto Cardona, Upward Bound class of 1982, and Edward Cooley, Upward Bound class of 1988, recently were named the New England Educational Opportunity Association’s Achievers of the Year.

“They both came from very humble beginnings, but they both recognized the opportunity that Upward Bound afforded them and they both worked hard through their Upward Bound years and beyond,” Mariam Boyajian, Upward Bound director, said while introducing Cardona and Cooley as they received their awards at NEOA’s conference. “They are just the sort of young men whom Upward Bound was designed to help.”

Boyajian said this was the first time two graduates from the same program have received the achievement awards together.

Cardona came to the RIC’s Upward Bound Program from Central Falls, which he in his acceptance speech described as unchanged since he grew up there in a climate where “the poverty rate is high and the graduation rate is low.”

Cardona went on to graduate magna cum laude from Johnson & Wales University and then from the Roger Williams University School of Law. Ten years ago, he returned to Central Falls and opened a law office there.

Cooley, who attended Central High in Providence, received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Stonehill College and in 2011 became head basketball coach at Providence College.

“Upward Bound changed my future through mentoring, tutoring and counseling provided on the comfort of a college campus,” Cooley said in his acceptance speech. “This exposure to academics and the arts inculcated the hope and confidence necessary to engage in a collegiate settings well as the world at large.”

The NEOA Achiever Awards are given to graduates of regional TRIO programs. Upward Bound is among the group of three U.S. Department of Education educational opportunity programs designed to provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The award recipients must have received a bachelor’s degree, made civic or professional contributions, are highly regarded within their profession, and whose participation in an educational opportunity program had a significant impact on their subsequent educational and professional success.

The Rhode Island College Upward Bound Program is designed to give low-income and potential first-generation college students skills and motivation to finish high school and enter higher education, helping to improve the college graduation rate among the state’s economically–challenged population.

The program offers academic instruction, counseling and support services, and strives to provide an environment that recognizes individual needs and academic potential.