Conn. (WTNH) — Starting next week, the state is highlighting a grant-funded program that helps prepare kids in underserved communities to go to college.

It’s called ‘GEAR UP’ – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The program offers free services like tutoring, SAT prep, career exploration, campus visits, and more.

Educators will follow the kids starting in seventh grade through high school graduation and even during their freshman year of college.

National GEAR UP is an opportunity to raise awareness in the community about the positive impact its programs can have on students.

Christina Lapierre, Connecticut’s project director for GEAR UP, explained, “We’re working with these students in what we call a ‘cohort model’ which is where we follow these students from starting in seventh grade. Right now they’re in ninth grade. Across the board, we will follow them each year they are in high school all the way through graduation and then we will be their advisors when they enter post-secondary first year of college…We want to make sure all of our students that we’re serving know that information and their parents that we’re here to help all of you together.”

Forty states across the country are involved in GEAR UP including nearby Massachusettes, which has been running its program for over 15 years.