Michael Snider is no stranger to recognition. In his last four years at Hug High School, he has earned honors in everything from attendance to public speaking to football. But even he was surprised when he was awarded roughly $70,000 in scholarship money before graduating this June, including a $20,000 Dell Scholarship.
According to Snider, he couldn't have done it without the help of the University of Nevada, Reno's Upward Bound program, which is a free college-preparatory program for high school students.
"The program is the reason why I'm so successful in my college endeavors because of the dedicated counselors, and the great knowledge they have on the college process," said Snider. "They started me off really early, so I was able to get a jump-start on scholarships and college applications."
Deidre Hill, Snider's mentor at Upward Bound and one of the coordinators of the program, said that Snider was a hard worker from his very first day in the program.
"He came in determined to succeed," she said. "And Upward Bound and ASCENT kept him motivated and on course to complete high school and begin college."
ASCENT, or All Students College Educated in Nevada Today, is sponsored by the University and Hug High School. It partners high school sophomores with members of the Washoe community who discuss college and career options with the students.
"It's a great program," said Hill, "and along with Upward Bound it allowed Rebecca Davidson [Snider's ASCENT mentor] and me to work our magic on him."
Snider will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall, where he plans to major in civil engineering. However, he has already had a taste of college life. Through Upward Bound he participated in residential programs at the University of California, Berkeley, where he took classes in calculus, chemistry, physics and English that helped prepare him for the engineering courses he'll be jumping into come August.
"I love how the program gave me a taste of college, and gave me the experiences to realize my potential," he said. "After I studied at Berkeley, I knew that I could go to that college, or one just like it."
Snider used his newfound motivation to work his way through internships with Granite Construction and the City of Reno Engineering Department, as well as college-level classes at Truckee Meadows Community College, his senior year. He has also been involved with many service projects, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Hug High School Mentoring Program, and many school programs, such as the Academic Olympics, Speech and Debate, and Key Club.
When asked what advice he would give to other students, Snider suggested setting definite goals.
"Dream big and keep a clear picture," he said. "I have a board of pictures, writing and charts of my goals on my wall so that I always have a clear picture of what I want to achieve. Set extremely high goals, so even if you don't achieve them, but come close, you still feel successful." Of course, being a part of Upward Bound also helps.
"It all comes down to the counselors who get the students involved and dedicate their time," he said. "My counselor, Ms. Hill, worked very closely with me by providing me recommendations, weekly check-ups, and any other help I needed for college. I highly recommend any student to get involved with Upward Bound at UNR."