Legendary ABC News Anchor John Quiñones kicked off the 2020 CFES Brilliant Pathways
Conference by challenging the thousands of students watching virtually not to let obstacles
caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prevent them from realizing their college and career dreams.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the first step, you’ve just got to take it,” said Quiñones, an
acclaimed author, speaker and host of What Would You Do? (WWYD), who inspired conference
attendees to “unlock the power and light within everyone.”

The “College Readiness in a New World Global Conference” drew 2,500 participants spanning
10 time zones to rural Essex, NY, where the event was broadcast at CFES headquarters. Leaders
in education, business and government came together to discuss innovative ways to help
students, teachers and communities stay on track during, and beyond, the pandemic. “Because much of the change we’re seeing is here to stay, we need to leverage disruption. Change is our friend,” said CFES President and CEO, Rick Dalton. “We need to find ways that will provide our kids with the best shot at a college degree. We must ensure that our kids are College and Career Ready.”

Conference attendees chose from five workshops focused on impactful virtual campus visits,
how to create an effective virtual classroom and school, paying for college and how government
leaders are addressing current issues in K-12 and higher education. A workshop for CFES
scholars focused on the art and science of virtual interviewing. “Whatever your journey will be, and however many zigs and zags it takes, having a good education is incredible armament for you to weather the ups and downs,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). “The heart of the benefit of an education is that you have the skills that come from a serious focus on education to learn what you want to learn and to do what you want to do in life.”

An at-large panel featuring Carolyn Slaski, Americas Vice Chair of Talent, EY and Porter
Braswell, Co-Founder & CEO, Jopwell (NY) offered the necessary tools for career readiness in
our ever-changing world. Through this, the importance of active mentorship, entrepreneurial
drive, and exposure to diverse opportunities was emphasized. “Allow scholars to learn from professionals. Bring folks in to expose students to the professional’s journeys and paths. My best advice is to live day by day and do the best you can do and when you look back you’ll see your path,”said Braswell.  Slaski told participants to “stay curious” and “ask why.” That’s what differentiates people. Turn everything into an opportunity.