The following was originally published in The Daily Star.

By Vicky Klukkert

Students from 12 schools in Otsego and Herkimer counties learned about mentoring and the path to college during a workshop at the Otesaga Resort Hotel Wednesday, May 17.

The districts — Cherry Valley-Springfield, Cooperstown, Edmeston, Gilbertsville-Mount Upton, Laurens, Milford, Morris, Mount Markham, Owen D. Young, Richfield Springs, Schenevus and Worcester central school districts and the Otsego Area Occupational Center — participate in the College is for Every Student Brilliant Pathways program.

The program, which started in Central New York in 1991, has helped more than 100,000 students nationwide become college- and career-ready, a media release said. The program relies on research-driven methods and best practices to show students how to get ready for college or a career.

Tara Smith, chief operating officer and GEAR UP principal investigator, CFES Brilliant Pathways, said the program defines college “very broadly.” The program defines college as two-year and four-year colleges, the military, technical school, trade school, certificate programs and micro-credentialed programs.

Students learn a 10-point College and Career Readiness Plan and essential skills to discover what future options are available to them. Schools teach the six essential skills — teamwork, perseverance, agility, goal setting, leadership and networking.

Smith said the six skills are what employers look for in employees, and people can transfer these skills to wherever they work.

The approximately 100 students, teachers and counselors who attended Wednesday completed training in College and Career Advisor Training and will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Vermont.

During the activities, students mingled with people they didn’t know to learn some networking skills. Smith had students input attributes people need to attend college on a website using their cellphones. Smith asked teams of students list the top 10 best attributes mentors possess, then narrow their lists down to the top five, then the top choice. Worcester students Cheyenne Rifenbark, 10th grade, Schuyler Maynard, ninth grade, and Julianne Militello, Casandra Bellinger and Julianna Everson, seventh grade, chose responsibility.

Students at Worcester volunteer for the mentoring program, Elementary Counselor Poletta Louis said. She said the district won’t force students to be mentors, that she wants the “student volunteers to feel it deep within their hearts that they want to be mentors.” She said the mentors meet on a monthly basis with the elementary students they are paired with and have monthly activities and training.

Rifenbark said she volunteered for the program because she wanted “to learn how to prepare for college.”

Gilbertsville-Mount Upton Librarian Raquel Norton said the district has participated in CFES for seven years. High school students mentor elementary students, she said, and the bonds they form extend beyond school, with high school students often attending their mentees’ sports games.

Norton said the district exposes students in pre-K through 12th grade to the six skills Smith talked about throughout the school year. Elementary teachers pick a student each month to emulate the skill being taught. The school holds career fairs that and hosts former students now in college to discuss their experience.

“The opportunities the students get are amazing,” she said.