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Middle School Students Get in Gear at Southern

Nearly 100 New Haven students about to enter eighth grade recently took part in a “graduation lunch” to mark the completion of their first year in a six-year program designed to improve their college readiness.

Southern is one of three higher education institutions in Connecticut participating in the federally-funded Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP).

The students took classes at Southern in a variety of areas, including literacy, math, science and the arts, according to Patricia Zibluk, director of Sponsored Programs and Research (SPAR), who helped oversee this summer’s program with Joy Fopiano, associate professor of elementary education.

“We also had the students participate in many fun and educational activities – such as Brazilian dance, field trips to area art museums and a bridge building exercise out of popsicle sticks,” Zibluk said.

The bridge building was part of a math class in which students used popsicle sticks to make suspension bridges, whose strength was actually put to the test with weights. The dance lessons included capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art dance, as well as the samba. The students also learned Portuguese phrases.

Plans call for students in the same class to participate in a similar five-week program each summer, concluding with the summer between their junior and senior years in high school.

Students who successfully complete the GEAR UP program will be eligible for college scholarships. 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 tuition free at Southern. “By working together, we can bring services, mentoring, summer experiences, as well as academic and arts enrichment to 320 entering seventh graders and their families for the next six years,” Zibluk said.

Southern also is playing a key role with the students during the regular school year – such as university students serving as mentors and tutors. 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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