Daweed Abdiel learned to relish challenges as a participant in the Upward Bound program of UChicago’s Office of Special Programs-College Prep (OSP-CP). Upward Bound offers year-round academic support to students from South Side communities, plus help navigating college admissions and financial aid. Since its founding in 1968, the office has helped more than 3,000 students prepare for and thrive in college.
Abdiel, who grew up in Englewood, joined Upward Bound in 2012 during his sophomore year of high school. Before Upward Bound, he says, college wasn’t on his radar — but the program propelled him forward in a number of ways. Taking college-level math as well as classes at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics on the UChicago campus prepared him for advanced academic work, and he also learned key skills like being on time, making a good impression, and active listening.
Above all, he says, “Upward Bound contributed to my confidence that no matter what happened, I could handle it. Being on the UChicago campus and exposed to collegiate academic rigor meant that I was able to be comfortable” when he left home for college. A Gates-Millennium Scholar and a Posse Scholar, Abdiel attended Denison University, graduating in 2019 with a BS degree in mathematics, and was one of 28 seniors honored with Denison’s Distinguished Leadership Award.
Abdiel now works in strategy and operations at Deloitte in northern Virginia, using data analytics to help federal agencies operate more efficiently; he’s thinking about enrolling in law school in a few years, or exploring a marketing career. “I didn’t know much about myself and what I found interesting when I started Upward Bound,” he says, “but the exposure it provided to different things sparked curiosity and engagement for me.”