Middlesex Community College and Meriden Public Schools Celebrate GEAR UP Week with Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz

Meriden, Conn. (Sept. 27, 2021) — On September 24, Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz visited Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden to recognize the GEAR UP college access grant program between Middlesex Community College (MxCC) and Meriden Public Schools.

GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is “one of the largest and most effective programs focused on increasing the college and career readiness of low-income students in communities nationwide,” according to its website. September 20–24 was National Gear Up Week.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz at podium“The whole idea is to let you and your families understand that there are so many resources out there to help you make [college] happen,” said Bysiewicz to the more than 30 high school students who attended the event in Platt’s media center.

In the fall of 2019, the Connecticut State Colleges and University (CSCU) system announced they received a seven-year, $25,802,971 million GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Three state community colleges—Manchester, Middlesex and Naugatuck Valley—are involved in working with students starting in seventh grade through their first year of college.

“We saw the GEAR UP grant and we thought this was a natural extension of a 30-year partnership between the college and the school district to work specifically with students in the high school class of 2025—beginning a couple years ago when they were in seventh grade—to get them acclimated to what college is all about,” said Steven Minkler, Ed.D., MxCC chief executive officer, in his remarks. “The point of this grant is to get our students prepared for college; to show you college is part of your future; that college can be financed through grants and scholarships; and that college is the ticket to a better future for all of us.”

Steve Minkler at podiumMinkler previously announced that MxCC’s portion of this grant is $4.5 million, plus the value of common services available to all three colleges that is matched with an additional $4.5 million in resources such as in-kind services provided by MxCC and the Meriden Public Schools, targeted fundraising and nonfederal grants. This brings the total project value to over $9 million. The grant runs through Aug. 31, 2026.

MxCC GEAR UP provides services and resources to a cohort of more than 650 students, now in ninth grade. The program’s goals are to increase post-secondary expectations; improve high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment rates; and increase knowledge of post-secondary options such as financial aid. These services include tutoring, mentoring, testing preparation, summer programming, career planning, college planning, financial aid workshops, and early access to college courses.

In her speech, Bysiewicz also highlighted the PACT program, the state’s free community college program.

“We want to engage the high school students of our state and want them to know that college is a possibility even if you think you can’t afford it,” she said.

high school students speak with Lt. Gov. BysiewiczSince 2017, Platt High School has served as MxCC’s Meriden location, with several college courses offered there each semester. The college has access to classrooms and the media center, as well as provides student services such as tutoring and advising. The partnership allows the college to save in campus expenses and in exchange, allows a limited number of Meriden high school students to attend college classes there free of charge.

Platt High School Principal Dan Corsetti welcomed Bysiewicz to the school along with Minkler and other state and local officials. Christina Lapierre, GEAR UP state project director, Kaara Koplowitz, MxCC GEAR UP coordinator, and representatives from the Meriden school system also attended.

“We’re thrilled to have the lieutenant governor here to show off things about Platt,” said Corsetti. “It’s a great day for Platt!”

To learn more about GEAR UP, Middlesex Community College and Meriden Public Schools, please visit mxcc.edu/gear-up/.

Since 1966, Middlesex Community College has provided high-quality, affordable and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 70 degree or certificate programs at the main 35-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden and online.