What is GEAR UP?

According the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP), the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative is one of the largest and most effective programs focused on increasing the college and career readiness of low-income students in communities nationwide.

GEAR UP is a highly competitive grant program that helps empower local partnerships comprised of K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, state agencies, and community organizations to achieve three strategic goals: (1) increasing the postsecondary expectations and readiness of students; (2) improving high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates; and (3) raising the knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and financing among students and families.

GEAR UP’s comprehensive approach encompasses:

  • Tutoring, mentoring, and other support networks
  • Building resiliency, capacities for self-efficacy, and leadership
  • Harnessing social-emotional learning
  • Engaging in academically rigorous coursework
  • Providing after-school and summer enrichment
  • PSAT and SAT test preparation
  • Focusing on opportunities in STEM
  • Exploring career pathways
  • Preparing for the college application and admission process
  • Identifying and mobilizing financial resources
  • Funding scholarships
  • Ensuring a successful transition to post-secondary education

As part of this exciting initiative stretching across the country, East Hartford is at the forefront – investing, preparing, and working for success in mobilizing GEAR UP’s comprehensive program for fostering college and career readiness. GU teams are committed to working alongside local school districts and partner colleges where all students are empowered and equipped with an education and the skills to succeed in a diverse and global society. The GEAR UP CT program is a grant-funded national initiative that is administered for the state of Connecticut by the CT State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) System Office. In 2019, CSCU was awarded $25.8M grant with partner colleges and school districts. This award allows the GU CT team to implement and carry out the GEAR UP services with local partnerships that began in Grade 7 with East Hartford students class of 2025, including a partnership between NVCC and Waterbury Public Schools and another partnering MxCC and Meriden Public Schools in addition to the East Hartford Public Schools & Manchester Community College.

Follow us, and engage with us as we make news, host events, and share information and resources:  #GearUpWorks

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The GU MCC-EH team will provide services, resources, and support throughout high school and after high school (2026).  This team will support students and the cohort families through 2026.

About Darchelle Hutchins, GEAR UP Local Program Coordinator

Darchelle Hutchins is a dynamic and motivated professional with a proven record of generating and building relationships, managing programs, projects, and design educational strategies. She serves as the GEAR UP local project director, collaborating with EHPS faculty, staff and administrators, managing the grant, and designing and implementing programs while fostering community partnerships. Prior to joining GU, she served as the client administrator at the University of Hartford Entrepreneurial and Women’s Business Center. Her professional background is well versed in the areas of youth and community where she worked in East Hartford as a Crossroads site supervisor and senior education manager in the nonprofit sector. Darchelle received a BA in communications from Miles College in Birmingham, AL and is working on her master’s degree in management. She is dedicated to leading change through empowering student voices.

Questions? Email Darchelle at

Michael Savage, GU East Hartford CCR Coordinator

Michael Savage is GU College and Career Readiness Coordinator at East Hartford High School in partnership with MCC. Along with coordinating college visits, facilitating after-school workshops and providing a multitude of services in his GU role. He is no stranger to CCR work in urban districts and comes to us from Hartford Public Schools where he recently held the position of College & Career Specialist as well as their student engagement specialist. Prior to working in HPS, he was a paraprofessional for the Hispanic Health Council-MiCasa After-Care Program. His professional background is well versed in many areas of youth, community and parent engagement relating to outreach, high school graduation rates, career exploration for youth and restorative practices. He is an alum of Southern CT State University with a B.S. in Liberal Studies. Michael is passionate, hard-working, dedicated, and willing to do whatever is needed to ensure our students and families feel heard, cared for, and most importantly seen.

Michael can be reached at: