The following articles was originally published in the Press Republican on January 18, 2022.

PLATTSBURGH — A new CFES Brilliant Pathways program kicking off Thursday aims to help parents fill pandemic-related college and career advising gaps.

Four virtual half-hour sessions this month, followed by four monthly boosters, will cover multiple topics including developing essential skills in children, understanding new pathways to college and careers, finding the right college or technical school, and financial aid, according to a CFES press release.

“The parents hold all the cards in terms of, you know, the child, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), motivating their children and directing their children on career pathways,” said Rachel Ribis, a French and public speaking teacher at Northeastern Clinton Central School.

“Parents are the biggest influences on their children, on many children, and … if we can motivate and entice them to push their kids towards greater career paths or college or whatever, then we can achieve the goal of producing productive citizens.”


CFES has offered college and career readiness (CCR) training for two years, and has been gradually moving away from generic sessions to ones focused on particular groups, President/CEO Rick Dalton told the Press-Republican. January’s focus is on parents.

In adapting its CCR programming for parents, CFES adjusted the lineup of topics; truncated the sessions into 30-minute segments; and scheduled them for 6 p.m., which parents have said is the best time, Dalton said.

Families can enroll at

The first 1,000 parents of CFES scholars who sign up for and complete the training will receive $25 gift cards. All those who finish will receive certificates from the University of Vermont.

As of earlier this week, 380 parents had signed up from the North Country as well as Texas, New York City, Hawaii, North Carolina and Florida, Dalton said. CFES is additionally offering both English and Spanish sessions.


Dalton said many in his organization are parents and grandparents who realized schools across the United States, and more specifically the college and career readiness realm itself, are in a crisis mode due to the pandemic.

According to the release, two years of remote and hybrid classes has resulted in many students barely knowing the teachers on whom they will rely for recommendations; greater inaccessibility to already overwhelmed school counselors; and dramatic changes to the college and financial aid application process.

CFES cited a 6.8% decline in the overall number of students going to college and an 11.8% drop for low-income students as many colleges report unclaimed federal financial aid due to under-enrollment.

Last year, Dalton wrote a book titled “Rural America’s Pathways to College and Career,” in which he references data from two years ago that showed while rural kids were more likely to graduate from high school than urban kids, they were less likely to go to college or, if they went, more likely to drop out.

“That gap has widened in the pandemic and it’s widened for many, many reasons,” Dalton said, pointing to distance from a college or university and the loans that come with higher education.


Higher education and the workplace are intricately connected today, Dalton said.

“Getting postsecondary training and education is really key to finding a job that will lift one out of poverty, and provide opportunities so that a young person can give back to their community, have a house, buy a car — again, be a contributor.”

Dalton has run CFES for 30 years. While it’s hard to say how parents’ roles have changed over that time when it comes to helping their children into career pathways, what they need to know has, he said.

That includes cost and how to pay for college, selectivity of admissions, what available jobs will be and what courses of study can gain students entry into those jobs.

“We don’t know what the jobs will be necessarily, but we do know that a whole lot of them are going to be in science, technology, engineering and math,” Dalton said. “We also know that low-income kids are very unlikely to pursue majors and minors and post-secondary study in STEM areas, .. so what can we do?

“We need to make a correction, and part of that is getting parents to understand and find ways to inspire, encourage, expose their kids to learning in that realm, studying in that realm, the job market in that realm.”


According to Dalton, about 75 Northeastern Clinton families have signed up for the parent CCR training so far, and CFES expects a total of 1,000 from across the country to participate, though there is no cap due to the workshop’s hybrid nature.

Ribis said any sort of opportunity is helpful in an economically disadvantaged area and in the midst of disadvantages suffered by all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we can offer anything, our parents will gladly take it,” she said. “They just want the best for their kids so they’re seeing this as a beacon of opportunity to give their kids a boost.”


CFES Brilliant Pathways’ college and career readiness training for parents will kick off with a live session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20.

Another live session will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. Two recorded sessions will take place in between, and there will be an additional four monthly booster sessions. The sessions will last 30 minutes.

To enroll, go to The first 1,000 parents of CFES scholars who sign up for and complete the training will receive $25 gift cards.

All those who finish will receive certificates from the University of Vermont.

By CARA CHAPMAN Press-Republican