When CFES Brilliant Pathways began in 1991, we worked with a handful of rural schools in Central New York. Our goal was to increase the number of students who pursued a college degree—work inspired by our president, Rick Dalton, who had recently co-authored a Harvard study exploring why low-income students often didn’t go on.
The list was long. It still is.
They lacked confidence in their abilities.
They lacked role models who had gone to college before them.
They lacked examples of meaningful careers worth aspiring to beyond those within their immediate line of sight.
They lacked basic, everyday skills—like networking, and persistence—that their peers from more privileged communities had routine exposure to.
From our earliest days, we’ve set about changing that.
Over the past 30 years, we’ve worked with more than 100,000 young men and women—25,000 last year alone. Working side-by-side with educators in both cities and rural school districts, we systematically break down the barriers that so often discourage students from choosing higher education. We introduce students to mentors. We enlist corporate partners to give our students a chance to expand their horizons. We lead thousands of students a year on college and university visits. Many times, it’s the first time these students ever set foot on a campus.
But it’s not the last. Ultimately, 95 percent of our CFES Scholars ultimately pursue a college education.
College and career readiness
At CFES Brilliant Pathways, we’ve always led with an unflinching conviction that a college education is the surest path to financial security. And with millions of high-paying jobs projected to go unfilled in coming years, underserved communities need to do a better job of sending their children to college. It’s a matter of economic survival—for the students, and the places they live.
But we’ve also learned that getting to college is just the start. It’s not enough to show a student how to get to college; they need the skills and knowledge to thrive there. In recent years, we’ve placed an increased emphasis on college and career readiness so students are prepared for the increased workload and responsibility they’ll face on campus. In many of the communities we work, counselors are responsible for too many students to do effective college counseling. It’s why we’ve committed to training 5,000 college and career readiness advisors in the coming years, to handle this important work.