ESSEX, NY – CFES Brilliant Pathways and representatives from area hospitals, colleges, businesses and school districts met on October 12 at the CFES Conference Center to celebrate and plan for the implementation of the largest federal grant ever secured in the Adirondack region dedicated to helping students become college and career ready.

The $11.6 million U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant will be administered by CFES – a global non-profit located in Essex, NY, that has helped more than 100,000 students become college and career ready since 1991. The primary goal is to improve the overall academic performance of 2,075 students in seven high-poverty, rural school districts to ensure that 85 percent attend an institution of higher education immediately following graduation.

The school districts include Ticonderoga, Beekmantown, Crown Point, Malone, Moriah, Willsboro and Ausable Valley. A requirement of the grant is that each school have a free- and reduced lunch rate of 50 percent or more at the seventh grade level, which is the starting demographic.

If historic trends hold true, only 29 out of 100 students currently in seventh grade within the grant’s target area of Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties will earn a college degree. Overall, 23 percent of the population possess a bachelor’s degree, compared to 35 percent of New York.

CFES GEAR UP will use a three-pronged approach to increase college and career readiness with a focus on Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) learning. CFES will focus on teaching the Essential Skills of goal setting, teamwork, leadership, agility, perseverance and networking; Pathways to College and Career involving GEAR UP professionals, teachers, mentors and others to help students identify potential colleges and careers; and mentoring for each student.

The grant is expected to have a major economic impact on the region where jobs increasingly require two- or four-year college degrees or equivalent credential. “This grant will create a cohort of the students who will lift each other up as well bring an educated workforce and jobs to the region,” said CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton.

Other objectives of the grant include a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education; increased parental engagement; improved student financial aid literacy; and college pathways knowledge.

“I am very passionate about addressing issues related to rural poverty,” said Ticonderoga Central School District Superintendent Dr. John McDonald. “The isolation makes it hard for many students to get experiences outside of their small towns. When you have a grant like this that includes so many partners you can reach a lot of students and open their eyes to the opportunities that exist for them.”

The following grant partners agreed to provide mentoring, job shadowing, professional learning opportunities and other in-kind services: The University of Vermont; Middlebury College; North Country Community College; SUNY Adirondack; UVM Health Network; UVM Children’s Hospital; STEM Happens Network; Champlain National Bank; the Adirondack Foundation; Norsk Titanium; GE Foundation; Sim vivo; and FIS Consulting.

“These funds will go a long way toward helping students throughout school districts in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties better prepare themselves for successful college careers,” said Joel Wood, regional director for U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik. “Congresswoman Stefanik supports the CFES mission and would like to express her sincere appreciation to Rick Dalton for inviting her to today’s event.”