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Gearing Up to Help Middle School Students Fulfill College Dreams

About 125 seventh graders from New Haven’s schools will take classes at Southern starting next summer as part of a federally-funded program designed to improve college access and readiness.

Southern is one of three higher education institutions in Connecticut participating in the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP), a seven-year, $31.5 million project that is designed to serve 3,000 middle school students in New Haven, Waterbury and East Hartford. Southern has been awarded $2 million from the grant, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, according to Patricia Zibluk, director of Southern’s Sponsored Programs and Research (SPAR).

The 125 students will be selected from about 340 incoming seventh graders next summer from eight schools in New Haven. They will participate in classes and programs in math, science, literacy, and arts and culture for a five-week period during the summer of 2013. A group of 125 students from the same class will do the same in the summer of 2014 – some of whom will be the same students who came to Southern the summer earlier. The summer sessions will continue through 2018.

“The GEAR UP grant presents Southern with the opportunity to strengthen our partnership with the New Haven School District,” Zibluk says. “By working together, we can bring services, mentoring, summer experiences, as well as academic and arts enrichment to 340 entering seventh graders and their families for the next six years.”

The 320 incoming seventh graders from New Haven – as well as about 2,700 other incoming seventh graders statewide — will be eligible for college scholarships after high school graduation. About half of the $31.5 million grant is being set aside for college scholarships. In addition, Southern will allocate $1.2 million specifically for those students who participate in the summer program at Southern. They also will be allowed to take 6 credits of classes at Southern tuition free.

Students will be given graphing calculators, which will be required to participate in the summer program. Southern also will be playing a key role with the students during the regular school year – such as providing students mentors and tutors, who will be Southern students participating in a teaching program. In addition, both students and their parents will be eligible to participate in financial literacy programs, as well as information sessions about financial aid.


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