The following article originally appeared in the Plattsburgh Press Republican on November 25, 2018:

ESSEX — College For Every Student Brilliant Pathways President and CEO Rick Dalton was weeding his garden when his wife, Karen, brought him the news.

“We got the grant,” she told him.

“I thought it was some grant for a few thousand dollars,” he said, “but she repeated, ‘No, we got THE grant!’”

That U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) funding, totaling almost $11.6 million, is shared among seven North Country schools: AuSable, Beekmantown, Crown Point, Malone, Moriah, Ticonderoga and Willsboro central.

The funding breaks down into $1.66 million per year over seven years.

It was announced at a presentation at CFES headquarters in Essex.

Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica won the balance of the grant: $536,000.


The GEAR UP initiative is intended to provide mentoring; tutoring; guidance in developing a pathway map to college and career; training and support in developing essential skills; access to STEM courses and out-of-school programs; and training in financial literacy.

At the forum, it was explained that parents will become more engaged in their children’s education.

Mentors, who most likely will be recent college graduates, will be placed in every school.

It was yet to be decided which grades at each school will be involved, though most of the schools were going to involve first- and second-graders and continue through the seventh grade.


Dalton told of how CFES had put together the proposal six months earlier by “pulling together the pieces with our partners of which the objectives are in the middle of CFES values and goals that include mentoring and essential skills.

“This program is all about college and career pathways, which is why we had added ‘Brilliant Pathways’ to CFES.

“If you don’t have college, you will be confined to minimum wage jobs. The economic implications with residents having college degrees can change a region.”

Although there are other North Country schools associated with CFES, those chosen were based on having 50 percent of their students qualifying for free lunches.


GEAR UP will support teachers and schools with:

• High quality professional learning opportunities.

• STEM resources.

• Opportunities to participate in regional and national learning communities.

• CFES GEAR UP mentors assigned to each school.

• Tutor compensation.

• Parental engagement support.

• Support for out-of-school learning opportunities.

“What makes me excited and passionate (about the grant) is the fact that poverty is worse for rural students, and this will allow them to get outside experiences,” Ticonderoga Superintendent John McDonald said.

“Many of our Ticonderoga students have not traveled past Albany. This will let them see what’s out there in fields such as manufacturing.

“As educators that want to lift our students, and a grant like this makes it easier.”

Adirondack Foundation President and CEO Cali Brooks told how she plays “college,” at home with her fourth-grade daughter.

Many students are not aware of the educational possibilities out there, she said.

When asked if Adirondack Foundation would be a partner, she said, “we didn’t hesitate.

“Twenty-three percent of North Country students live in poverty. This grant will help these kids and guide them on their journey.”


The five goals and objectives of GEAR UP are:

• To increase students’ high school graduation rates and post-secondary preparation.

• Increase post-secondary participation.

• Increase family knowledge of post-secondary education options, preparation and financing.

• Create or expand opportunities for credentials in STEM or computers.

• Promote the development of skills to become informed, thoughtful and productive citizens.

Bill Beaney, former hockey coach at Middlebury College told of successes with mentoring programs of which he has been affiliated.

“This stuff works,” he said.

“It has a tremendous impact in changing how teaching looks, from book smart to street smart.”


Joel Wood read a prepared statement from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) that said, in part, “I am delighted for all you have done. The funds will go a long way for the student program and the skills they need.”

“This is unprecedented in the North Country,” Andrea McDonald of CFES Programs and Initiatives said.

“Rural philanthropies account for less than 3 percent in helping students.

“This is a game changer.”