Ray Darling and his wife, Jane, attended an awards program at Lecanto High School in the late 1980’s. Afterwards, they talked about how only the super achievers ever got any kind of reward, but there were a lot of students who deserved a “pat on the back” and some form of reward, but they were not recognized.
Ray Darling thought about that observation, developed an idea and took it to his Rotary Club in Homosassa Springs. They backed him, so Darling then went to the then superintendent of schools Carl Austin. Austin thought it would work, and so after further discussions with school heads and the Rotary clubs, Upward Bound in Citrus County was born.
The first award program was held in the fall of 1990. Initially, it was only the elementary and primary schools, with middle and high schools included the following year.
Citrus County Schools have been strong partners in Upward Bound and fully supportive. Board members regularly attend Upward Bound breakfasts.
Originally Andres in Citrus Hills and Inverness Golf Club were used for the events, but soon Citrus Springs Community Center became the regular venue, and it has been held there ever since.
Each student gets a certificate, a personal photograph of their presentation, and a group photograph of the individual schools are also taken.
Citrus County Schools Student Services Department give their support by gathering numbers from the schools and distributing the individual photographs.
The work also involves ensuring the six events each year are supported by all schools. Over time, the program was extended to include the private schools and specialized education establishments, too.
Each of the six Rotary Clubs in the county contributes an annual amount of $750, with a further $250 specifically for the Ray Darling Upward Bound Scholarship.
THE RAY DARLING UPWARD BOUND SCHOLARSHIP
The scholarship of $1,500 is awarded to a final year student of a Citrus County High School who has been a recipient of an Upward Bound certificate and is planning to attend college/university/technical college in the next academic year.
In order to be considered, students had to write an essay of approximately 800 words on the subject of “I am Upward Bound because….” — an indication of what receiving an Upward Bound Award meant to them, and how it influenced their progress.
An event on April 18 honored the first recipient of the Ray Darling Upward Bound Scholarship.
The recipient is Mutsawashe Manyenga, a Lecanto High School student, who received an Upward Bound award whilst at Pleasant Grove Elementary School in 2009/10, when in the third grade.
In recognition of Ray Darling’s contribution to the founding and development of this wonderful program, ongoing events will be renamed the Ray Darling Upward Bound Program.