What's New

  • U.S. Department of Education Awards $29.7M to Fund College Access, Scholarships for MA Students

    U.S. Department of Education Awards $29.7M to Fund College Access, Scholarships for MA Students

    GEAR UP Will Help 6300 Students in Seven Urban Districts Get To College with Academic, Financial Support

    Boston, MA – October 30, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $29.7 million to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to continue funding GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), its successful college access and scholarship program, at 16 schools in seven urban districts across the Commonwealth.

    The program, now in its 19th year, will provide tutoring, mentoring, and scholarships for 6300 middle and high school students in Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester for the next seven years.

    “Providing Massachusetts students with the academic support to succeed and graduate from high school with a college and career plan in place is a priority for our administration,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Support from GEAR UP, coupled with scholarship opportunities and early college programs, plays a critical role in preparing our students for successful careers after graduation.”

    Students and their families receive help with the college search and application process, SAT test preparation, financial counseling and academic support services intended to help students arrive on campus prepared to succeed in credit-bearing coursework.

    “GEAR UP has been a proven success in Massachusetts, and I am proud that the Department of Education has been recognized for its achievements,” said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass). “This investment of federal and state dollars is an effective boost for low-income and first generation students to get into and succeed throughout college. I am glad to see this program include communities all across the Commonwealth, and am excited to follow the accomplishments of these students as they graduate high school and enroll in colleges and universities.”

    “Every hard-working kid who wants to get an education deserves the chance to do so – that’s why I’m thrilled that Massachusetts has received this GEAR UP grant,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). “With this critical investment by the federal government, over 6,300 students from around the Commonwealth will get the help they need to graduate high school and go to college.

  • WWLP 22News Coverage of Go Higher! Event in Springfield

    WWLP 22News: Go Higher! Event in Springfield

    A college fair was hosted by Gear Up, which is part of the state's Department of Higher Education that serves low-income students and their families in seven of the most impoverished areas in the commonwealth.

  • 2015 GEAR UP District Map
  • 2015 GEAR UP District Map

    GEAR UP is in 7 Districts Across the State

    Check out our state partners and the schools we serve

    GEAR UP Massachusetts serves low-income priority students in five cohorts across seven of the Commonwealth’s most impoverished areas: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester. Target middle and high schools have poverty rates as high as 93%, and most of the largest are categorized as persistently lowest achieving State Improvement Grant (SIG) schools.

  • Worcester North High School students pose for a picture

    Massachusetts College Application Celebration helps thousands of Worcester students apply to college

    Worcester becomes the first large district to expand MCAC to all nine high schools and alternative programs in the city

    play icon WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

    WORCESTER - Thousands of high school students applied to college, and more than 700 received acceptances, during a greatly expanded college admissions program hosted by the Worcester public schools this month.

    The Massachusetts College Access Celebration, now in its fourth year, aims to help high school seniors around the state advance or, in some cases, just begin their post-graduation plans. With the help of school counselors, college admissions workers and volunteers from local companies at MCAC events, which are held at participating schools during the school day, students can apply to college, find out how to improve their chances of getting in, and even receive on-the-spot acceptances and scholarship offers.

    This year represented a major expansion for the program in Massachusetts, with nearly 40 participating schools, up from around 20 the year before. Leading that effort was Worcester, which itself expanded from three participating high schools to all nine schools and alternative programs in the district enrolling high school students this year.

    "Worcester is the first large district (in the state) that's done this districtwide," said Robert Dais, state director of the federally funded Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, which is spearheading the MCAC campaign in Massachusetts. "We're very excited about that. They're pioneering something here."

    Superintendent Maureen Binienda, who oversaw the largest MCAC participation site in the city when she was principal of South High Community School, said her positive experience with the program convinced her to try it out at other schools.

    When she became superintendent last spring, "it was one of my goals to expand the college-going culture at every school," she said. "We'd done it at South for three years, and each year I saw ... how it completely helped the spirit of the school."

    According to a schedule provided by the district, MCAC events were held each school day between Dec. 13 and Dec. 22 at different sites, which this year included South High, North High School, Doherty Memorial High School, Burncoat High School, Worcester Technical High School, Claremont Academy, University Park Campus School, the Gerald Creamer Center, and the Alternative School at St. Casimir's. In total, students at those events submitted 5,045 college applications, and colleges offered 770 acceptances and a combined $2.1 million in scholarship aid.


    State program helps thousands of Worcester students apply to college – Worcester Telegram & Gazette

  • Screenshot of UMass Lowell Article titled 'Alumna Helps Students GEAR UP' - text the same as story below.

    GEAR UP Director featured in UMass Lowell Alumni Magazine

    Colleen Winn talks about her journey from UMass Lowell graduate to Director of Lowell's GEAR UP and TRiO programs

    Today’s Lowell doesn’t look like the same place where Colleen Winn ’85 grew up. And UMass Lowell isn’t the same university from which she graduated with a B.A. in English.

    But Winn sees the bedrock similarities under the surface changes: Lowell is still a city of immigrants who want better lives for their children and UMass Lowell is still the university that helps many of those children succeed, just like it helped her.

    Today Winn serves as a bridge between past and present, city and university. As director of the state and federal Gear Up and TRIO programs for Lowell, she helps low-income, first-generation middle and high school students prepare for college. “I’m working with students because my parents fomented not only this love of helping others, but also the idea of education being a cornerstone for opportunities,” she says.

    Winn worked in retail and pharmacy management while earning an M.A. in English at Rivier University, with dreams of being a reporter. But she found herself helping the sales clerks who worked for her at Brooks Pharmacy in Lawrence—mostly young Puerto Rican women—apply to college. She thought, “I’m good at this!” and went back to Rivier for a second master’s in education with a concentration in guidance counseling.

    A lifelong learner, Winn is now pursuing her doctorate in education, with a focus on the achievement gap. Research shows that the students she serves today face tougher challenges than her generation did, including poverty, trauma, language and cultural barriers, and the high cost of college, she says.

    Julie Lun ’18 is one example. Lun’s mother got little schooling after her family fled the killing fields of Cambodia and spent 10 years in a Thai refugee camp. In the United States, she struggled to learn English and find work. Starting at age 12, Lun had to babysit her younger siblings while her parents worked second shift. Still, she persevered in her schoolwork, with support from Winn and the Gear Up counselors at Lowell High School. “Gear Up made me focus on my education, to want to better myself despite my situation at home,” Lun says.

    Lun took four classes at Middlesex Community College her senior year of high school and then matriculated at UMass Lowell with a generous financial aid package that included scholarships, work-study jobs and campus housing. She’s on track to graduate next year with a criminal justice degree—and she just might take over Winn’s job one day. “I want to advocate for Gear Up, or maybe work with young people who are at risk of not going to college or finishing high school,” she says. “You can be different than your circumstances. You can be a leader. You can change things.”

    Alumna Helps Students 'Gear Up' - UMass Lowell Magazine

  • Amherst Wire Logo

    Springfield students feel less overwhelmed about college, thanks to GEAR UP

    The Amherst Wire spotlights Springfield's GEAR UP program

    Rumbila Abdullahi and her family came to America from Kenya before she entered high school. When she came to America, Abdullahi remembered catching on faster to the English language than her older siblings and parents did. She became not only a student with expectations of going to college —but a translator for her family members.

    “I spend a lot of my time here,” Abdullahi said of Springfield Central High School. “We’re advised to challenge ourselves … But expecting students to get everything done and go through the college process can be overwhelming.”

    As a future first-generation college student, Abdullahi is dealing with the pressures at home and at school to be knowledgeable and successful when it comes to getting to college. As a high school senior at Springfield Central High School and a student in GEAR UP, Abdullahi hopes to be relieved of some of the pressures she feels about the college process.

    >> Read More

  • Governor Baker poses with GEAR UP Students at the Commonwealth Commitment announcement at Middlesex Community College

    Governor Baker, Higher Ed Leaders Join GEAR UP Students to Announce Commonwealth Commitment

    Innovative affordability & completion plan will help more students achieve the dream of a college degree

    When Massachusetts high school students graduate, they will now have the opportunity to enroll in the Commonwealth Commitment, a new agreement between the 28 public undergraduate campuses that freezes tuition & fees for entering freshman who commit to start at a community college and transfer to a state university or UMass campus. Through the plan, students will also receive 10% rebates at the end of each successfully completed semester as an incentive to stay on-track and complete their bachelor's degree in two and half years or less.

    GEAR UP students from Lawrence and Lowell High Schools joined Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago and college and university presidents for the signing of the Commonwealth Commitment at Middlesex Community College.

    Watch Coverage of the Event

  • Police Officer holds thank you card from Springfield students

    Springfield Students Give Gift to show Appreciation for Police

    Students from the Gear Up program delivered cookies and coffee to the Springfield Police Department to show police officers they appreciate their sacrifice.

    In light of demonstrations across the country targeting police officers in the past month, Putnam and Central High school students wanted to show police officers they appreciate their sacrifice.

    Students from The Gear Up program delivered cookies and coffee to the Springfield Police Department Tuesday.

    The gesture was meant to show officers, that young people still view them as heroes and that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

    Channing Calcasola from Central High School in Springfield told 22News, "Because many of our students do live right in Springfield and they want to give back and show the police that they appreciate everything that they do."

    >> Read More

  • North High School GEAR UP Students at Worcester State University

    North High School GEARS UP for Worcester State University

    Current Worcester State students and GEAR UP alumni speak to high schoolers about the university and their transition to college.

    North High School GEAR UP students who were accepted to or interested in Worcester State University visited the campus for an informative and fun day. The GEAR UP students were paired up with current WSU students who are GEAR UP alumni to attend a college class and tour the campus. The WSU students spoke with the group about their transition into college, their majors, and how they are finding success as college students.Ryan Forsythe, VP for Enrollment Management also spoke with the group about the benefits of a college degree.

    Kathy Taylor, 13th Year Director, organized the event with support from MassEdCO GEAR UP staff.

    "People like giving back," she said. "The event was adapted to include a mentor/mentee dynamic because I know that resonates with people, and that's exactly what translated into a great day."

    The day included time for group energizers, time playing pool and ping pong in the commuter's lounge, and everyone ate lunch together in the cafeteria.