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ETSU's Upward Bound students visit Disney Youth program at Epcot
Upward Bound students at Disney workshop

JOHNSON CITY (July 26)— East Tennessee State University Upward Bound students expanded their educational experience using Epcot, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as their classroom in mid-July as they explored strategies that promote effective problem solving, decision making and leadership skills through the Disney Youth Education Series.

The 200 students in grades 9-12 were a part of the first ETSU Upward Bound group to participate in the program.

The students participated in various interactive programs such as The Evolution of Technology and Disney Leadership Strategies. The workshops allow students to learn the skillsets of innovation, collaboration and problem-solving.

Emily Grater, ETSU Upward Bound assistant director of academic services and programs, said the Disney program was the perfect place to bring her students. “There are a lot of benefits when bringing your students to Disney World for educational purposes,” said Grater. “A lot of our students have never been outside of the state of Tennessee, so it is opening them up to a whole new world.”

The Upward Bound program at ETSU is a federally funded program established in 1982 to assist first-generation college students in transitioning into college by providing them during their high school years with the tools and resources they need.

Dr. Ronnie Gross, director of TRIO programs at ETSU, chose Disney as the end of the year trip to use its one-of-a-kind educational programs for his students. “This was designed to be a fun trip, but it is certainly educational and cultural as well,” said Gross.

This was a meaningful trip for Kaycee Kacmar, a recent high school graduate who has participated in the Upward Bound program for four years. “I think this program is life changing,” said Kacmar. “The Disney program teaches kids to be their own person and impacts their lives for the better.”

The Disney Youth Education Series offers everything from physics to history while emphasizing the importance of teamwork and critical thinking skills. Each program is accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission, which certifies them as providing educationally sound experiences designed for academic achievement.

For more information about the Disney program, visit or call 1-800-603-0552.

Visit or call 423-439-5619 to learn about Upward Bound.

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