Students from local high schools including Crosby, Kennedy, Wilby, Waterbury Career Academy, Waterbury Arts Magnet, and Kaynor Technical High School started academic enrichment programs sponsored by GEAR UP and the Waterbury Public Schools at the Waterbury campus of Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) today.
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a federally-funded discretionary grant program designed to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college by providing early intervention, academic advising, and academic and social support. NVCC has served as the fiduciary for Waterbury and has administered the grant through its Bridge to College Office since 2012, when the grant was first awarded.
This seven-year federally-funded grant program began with sixth and seventh grade students in Waterbury middle schools in the fall of 2012. The students that came to NVCC today are in 11th and 12th grades and they are the first cohort of students in the program which began six years ago. They grew up in this program.
After arriving at the NVCC campus by bus, 100 students departed for a week long residential program at Wesleyan University where they will engage in a week of college exploration, team building, and courses in literacy, financial literacy, and soft skill development. This residential program is designed to help students understand the college experience. Mornings are filled with classroom work, the afternoons are typically devoted to college visits and cultural experiences, while the evenings are reserved for mentors and guest speakers.
Another 70 students will be at NVCC for the next four weeks. They will study English, Math, and Leadership curriculum Monday- Friday, 9 am- 12:30 pm through August 4, 2017. Dave Celotto, Bridge to College Division Director commented, “We are very proud of our students for taking the time to enhance their academics this summer. The lessons they learn here will make a difference in literacy and numeracy skills in everyday life situations.”
Celotto explained the impact of the program goes far beyond the summer experience. This program helps the students to be prepared for math and English coursework in the fall while teaching them the soft skills for success, like communication, leadership, decision making. All the Bridge to College summer programs offer students the chance to engage with positive role models, learn from their peers, and apply their academic aptitude to real world situations. The Bridge to College staff at NVCC works to ensure that students have a positive take-away from their experience: goals for the following school year, aspirations to attend an institution of higher education, and knowledge of the skills necessary to succeed in the coming years.
NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D., commented “I remember when I first began at NVCC in 2008, one of my first activities was to attend a ConnCAP end-of-summer celebration. Years later we worked with the support of Janis Petrillo and Dr. Estela Lopez on a scaled-up version that is our current GEAR UP program. Now so many students are benefitting from this very successful program. High school completions for ConnCAP students were in the high 90th percentile. We anticipate the same results of GEAR UP students and I just love seeing the students on campus, celebrating the fact that in the near future, they are college bound.”