UC grad uses Upward Bound program to catapult career

Ricky Pleasant

W. Ricky Pleasant

The Upward Bound program has been a platform at the University of Cincinnati for more than 50 years and has redirected the pathways for many college students who are considered underserved.

This includes UC graduate Ricky Pleasant.

Pleasant was born and raised in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Avondale. The youngest of two and raised by a single mother, Pleasant learned by demonstration the definition of resilience, hard work and perseverance. 

When Pleasant was a child, his mother signed him up to take piano lessons. Wanting to keep him active, his mom considered this activity as a way to enlighten her young son and to keep him occupied.

By coincidence, Pleasant took piano lessons alongside Cynthia Partridge, now director of Upward Bound program at UC.

During this time, Partridge and Pleasant’s mother began to develop a rapport where they would regularly discuss Pleasant’s classroom performance and made small talk. It was during the development of this relationship where Pleasant’s mom was educated about Upward Bound, which is a federally funded college prep program offered in the United States to low-income and first-generation students.

Partridge would discuss the programs benefits, which made an impression on Pleasant's mom that would have big implications in years to come. 

The program should be viewed as a treasure.

W. Ricky Pleasant, UC alumnus talking about Upward Bound

As a freshman at Walnut Hills High School, a top-rated school for academics in Ohio, Pleasant did not immediately rise to the academic standards set before him. Drowned in sadness by the loss of his grandmother, he had a difficult time staying motivated. When his mother saw how Pleasant wasn’t performing well, she remembered those conversations with Partridge during Pleasant’s piano lessons and decided to enroll her son into Upward Bound at UC to help him get back on track and to excel academically.

Pleasant resisted Upward Bound because  of its participation requirements. For Upward Bound students, Saturday classes were required along with weekly tutoring as needed. However, unable to navigate away from his mother’s tenacious plans, Pleasant began a journey that would impact his life significantly for years to come. 

Ricky Pleasant and Upward Bound group

W. Ricky Pleasant returns to UC to talk to Upward Bound students.

During his time in Upward Bound, Pleasant gained the experience of living on a college campus, increased his social skills and became prepared for rigorous college curricula. While he was predominately raised by his mother, Upward Bound also provided great male influences in his life. Among the many men he considered influential was Phillip Cathey, the previous Director of Upward Bound for more than 20 years.

He became a great mentor to Pleasant through his loving, yet stern “didn’t play” demeanor, Pleasant said. Being around strong black men for Pleasant was eye opening into the man he could become.

Once graduating from high school, Pleasant attended Alabama A&M University, a historically black college in Huntsville, where he earned a bachelor of science in finance and graduated cum laude. He returned to Cincinnati where he became a teacher’s assistant for Upward Bound. It was in this position where Pleasant taught financial literacy courses while serving as a mentor to upcoming high school students while simultaneously, working on his master's of business administration in UC's Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

Pleasant said he took the opportunity to return what he was given by working with the program that prepared him for a lifetime of career success. The program nurtured and encouraged him after he lost his grandmother.

Today, Pleasant lives in Los Angeles where he is executive assistant for the American Black Film Festival, the “nation’s largest gathering of black film and television enthusiasts.”

Pleasant credits Upward Bound for his career trajectory.

“A lot of the success I had professionally would not have happened without the structure – the social and confidence-building lessons that I was able to learn throughout the Upward Bound program," Pleasant said.

"The program should be viewed as a treasure – historical one because it has been at UC for over 50 years. Hopefully, people will realize how important it is and fight to make sure the funding is always available.”

Related Stories


We love ‘Lucy’ — the AI avatar redefining UC tech transfer

July 17, 2024

In a visionary leap at the University of Cincinnati, the marriage of artificial intelligence and interactive technology has birthed "Lucy," a Smarthelp AI avatar poised to revolutionize how regional industries engage with UC's tech transfer initiatives.


NIS program opens new horizons for international student

July 17, 2024

In his pursuit of physics and a taste for research, Akash Khanikor ventured from his hometown in India's Assam to the University of Cincinnati, drawn by the promise of hands-on exploration early in his undergraduate career as a NEXT Innovation Scholar.


Camp aims to empower children, teens who stutter

July 17, 2024

A one-week, evidence-based program for children and teens who stutter at the University of Cincinnati will teach kids to communicate effectively, advocate for themselves and develop confidence about their communication abilities. Camp Dream. Speak. Live., which is coming to Cincinnati for the first time July 22-26, began in 2014 at the University of Texas at Austin. The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research at UT expects to serve more than 2,000 children at camps across the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe this year.

Debug Query for this