Years long program helps New Haven students stay on the college track

NEW HAVEN   -- For the last six years a federal program, called GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program) has helped keep students in areas like New Haven and East Hartford on the track to college.

The students entered the program in 7th grade and are now in their first year of college at Southern Connecticut State University. The program is geared for urban youth who might not have the same opportunities to attend college as many of their peers throughout the state.

“I remember one specific meeting when they came to the school and they spoke to the classes combined and they were telling us about it and all I heard was pay for college,” SCSU freshman Arianna Rivera.

While the promise of grant money at the end of the program made for an added bonus gear up turned out to the guidance some students didn`t realize they needed.

“Like just graduating high school was kind of the big goal but with GEAR UP I realized that was just part of a big goal, the actual goal was to get to college and to finish college,” Anisha Santiago said.

Through out the years the students went to Southern for after-school and summer educational and cultural programs, designed to prepare them for college

“And it`s through that introduction overtime and for the students learning what it`s like to be on a college campus and interact with college faculty I think that showed them all of the possibilities that are there,”

According to a SCSU spokesperson, about half of the 335 students who participated in the SCSU/New Haven GEAR UP cohort are attending post-secondary schools including 137 four-year colleges/universities, 68 of whom are enrolled at Southern this fall.