The following was originally published by the Press-Republican.

ESSEX — The first North Country students of the CFES Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) are preparing to graduate from high school as college and career ready candidates.

Through CFES GEAR UP, 2,457 students are now receiving personalized college and career coaching, giving North Country youth momentum toward furthering their education after high school, a news release said.

“We want to ensure that our North Country students have the best opportunities available,” Rick Dalton, CFES president and CEO said.

CFES GEAR UP has mobilized College and Career Readiness (CCR) Fellows at schools in AuSable Valley, Beekmantown, Crown Point, Malone, Moriah, Ticonderoga and Willsboro, who meet regularly with students in grades 6 through 12.

Last year, CFES GEAR UP provided a total of 27,000 hours of career counseling and academic advising for North Country students.

“We want to help North Country youth build opportunities by giving them the knowledge and exposure they need to achieve rewarding careers,” Ron Rix, who directs the program said.

CFES GEAR UP students visit cutting-edge companies such as Beta Technologies and Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing to participate in hands-on activities like setting up a broadcast studio or using lasers and 3D printers.

The GEAR UP program also trained more than 450 teachers, educators, high school and college students, and family members who were certified by the University of Vermont as College and Career Readiness Advisors.

These advisors, including 75 students in education programs at SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam, are now mentoring students in the GEAR UP partner schools; CCR Fellows are recent college grads, who are close in age to those they are counseling.

CCR fellows facilitate in-person and virtual visits to college campuses and businesses, coach students on how to access promising careers and financial aid, and help them understand academic requirements.

GEAR UP aims to assist students who come from families with no tradition of higher education; That includes such tasks as applying to college or writing a resume, along with answering questions about college life.

According to Rix, CFES GEAR UP also exposes students to innovative technologies that are useful in careers that are based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“Many of today’s careers that didn’t exist a decade ago are in the STEM fields,” Rix said.

Through the grant, partnerships with SUNY ADK, SUNY Plattsburgh, the University of Vermont and a dozen other colleges and universities have been created to offer new opportunities.

In addition, collaboratives have been established with local businesses to provide North Country students with workforce development skills and exposure to careers of the future.

“Our goal is to prepare students for meaningful careers and provide a pathway to achieve success,” Rix said.

“This changes young people’s life trajectories so they are not just living to work, but are engaged in a career that can give them a better quality of life.”

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