In just their second year as a CFES Brilliant Pathways partner, J. E. Brown Middle School has created a vibrant college-going culture. A team of 30 Scholar leaders recently presented an overview of their year, focusing on exemplary activities that integrate each of the CFES core practices – mentoring, development of essential skills and exploration of college and career pathways.

The Scholars talked about college visits, leadership development, connecting with a CFES school in rural New York State, a robotics workshop with West Point and more. They addressed an audience that included peers, educators, a team of mentors who work for the Atlanta Hawks, and Dallas and Scott Pioli, Assistant General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons and CFES board member, who initiated and provides ongoing support for the partnership.

“My favorite activity was the robotics workshop with West Point cadets,” said Tashyra, one of 80 CFES Scholars at Brown who participated in the event, adding proudly that building and programming the winning robot was the best part. As a result of the workshop and their commitment to STEM learning, Tashyra and three of her classmates will attend a four-day STEM camp at West Point in the late spring.

Participating in leadership development was a highlight for Lavonte: “We had a chance to learn cool things about each other and talk to each other in ways we don’t usually.”

Elijah added that working as a team on different activities was fun and made the group, who had the responsibility of replicating the training for nearly 400 classmates in the sixth and seventh grades, more cohesive.

Like their CFES peers across the country, most of the students at Brown will be the first in their family to attend college, making exposure to college campuses a high priority. The students have visited Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Clayton State, learning the history and highlights of each school as well as gaining an understanding of the admissions and financial aid process.

Professionals from the Hawks volunteered once a month as mentors, creating relationships that are as uplifting for the mentors as they are for the students. “Working with the CFES students proved that mentoring benefits both mentors and mentees. I have mentored kids of many ages, and CFES was special as you can see the students truly prepare and build excitement for the path towards college. It was truly a great experience and I look forward to more!” said Kate Lanier, membership consultant for the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, who attended the year-end celebration.

Principal Tiauna Crooms said the CFES partnership has allowed teachers to focus on a college and career path that is directly aligned with Georgia standards: “This partnership has provided our students with essential skills, but more importantly the relationship has allowed Brown’s students to explore the possibilities for their future.”

“The team at Brown Middle School has put a lot of effort into building college and career awareness, providing opportunities for all students to think about and begin mapping their goals. Hearing about the impact of these opportunities from the students themselves is powerful and underscores the importance of collaboration between schools, higher-ed and the community,“ added Andrea McDonald, CFES Program Director. “We’re excited to build upon this year’s success as we move into the new school year.”