City to announce new scholarship program

Marking another step toward City Hall’s goal of creating a “college-going culture” in New Haven, city and state officials are announcing today a college scholarship and preparatory program that will serve about 3,000 seventh-grade students in New Haven, East Hartford and Waterbury.

The new initiative, which school officials are calling the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program, or “GearUp,” will follow one cohort of students from seventh grade through high school and their first year of college. Funded through a $31.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program will be run jointly by the New Haven Public Schools, Southern Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education. GearUp will provide college preparatory services as well as college scholarships to all students who graduate from high school, get accepted to college and meet certain program eligibility criteria. Mayor John DeStefano Jr., assistant superintendent of schools Imma Canelli and other political and education officials will unveil the program at a press event in the King-Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School on Fournier Street at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

“Innovative GearUp programs that intervene early give students the opportunity to determine if they are ready for college and can make all the difference in whether they attend college,” said Robert Kennedy, president of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education. “These grants provide the mentoring and support that gives thousands of students a chance to achieve academic success in post-secondary education.”

New Haven public schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith said GearUp also creates a relationship between public schools and state public universities — GearUp students who chose to attend Southern Connecticut State University or another Connecticut State University System school may have their tuition reduced or waived altogether.

Both Smith and New Haven spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 declined to comment on specific details of GearUp, such as what criteria students must meet to receive scholarships, how much scholarship funding students will receive and how tuition reductions at in-state institutions will be determined. That information, they said, will be made public at Wednesday’s press event, which will take place in front of an audience of students who will be eligible for the program.

But Smith did confirm that college preparatory programs offered through GearUp will include tutoring services, mentoring initiatives, workshops and summer programs. Those offerings will be financed with the Department of Education grant, and the remaining funds will be divided among eligible students in the form of scholarships, she added.

“We really don’t know the specifics of scholarship amounts yet, in part because it will depend on how many students qualify,” Smith said.

The GearUp grant was first announced by Gov. Dannel Malloy in May. The funding aims to increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and complete post-secondary education as well as to help alleviate some of the financial difficulties those students face when considering higher education.

“We need to better understand and break down the barriers Connecticut’s students face when they are preparing for higher education,” Malloy said in May. “Access to higher education is critical not only for these students’ own future personal success, but for Connecticut’s future economic success as well.”

To be eliglble for GearUp benefits, students must be enrolled in the seventh grade at one of 12 schools throughout New Haven, East Hartford and Waterbury.

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