• Denise Garcia Simpson
    Denise Garcia Simpson

Growing up in Laredo, Texas, Denise Garcia Simpson’s mother always told her that her options would be greatly expanded if she got a good education.

Now, Simpson plans to instill that same philosophy in local students as the new director of Southwestern’s Upward Bound program. The program, which is funded by a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, serves approximately 50 students a year from East View, Georgetown, Jarrell and Granger high schools. The goal of the program is to help prepare these students to be the first in their families to attend college.

“I want for every student we work with to realize that their opportunities are limitless, and that doors of opportunity only close if you let them,” Simpson said.

Before recently relocating to Central Texas with her husband, Simpson worked with military families at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as a certified coach practitioner. While there, she also developed a program called Empower U! to help teens face the challenges of self worth, social acceptance and college transitions.

Before that, Simpson served as director of adult basic education at Laredo Community College for six years. The program she ran served more than 1,200 students a year with help from more than 70 faculty and staff.

“My experience has prepared me to give all that I am to our scholars and their parents in Upward Bound,” Simpson said. “When I think of the doors that have been opened to me, my sisters and my husband because of education, I can’t help but want to instill that philosophy in our young Upward Bound scholars.”

Simpson received an undergraduate degree in business administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio and a dual Master of Arts degree in human resource development and management from Webster University in San Antonio. She is currently a doctoral student in the Leadership Studies program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

“When I see the pride of accomplishment in our Upward Bound scholars, I feel some of the pride my mother must have felt in watching my sisters and I,” she said.

– Isaac Bernal