As K-12 schools across the country struggle to adjust to a new paradigm of virtual learning, educational non-profits like CFES Brilliant Pathways are playing a key role in keeping students engaged and preparing them for college and careers.

The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented need for online student support of daily homework assignments, college and career readiness and mentoring. CFES has shifted to an online platform to meet the needs of its schools in these areas by providing virtual mentors and tutors, links to virtual campus tours, online college fairs and financial aid webinars.

High school juniors, for example, are needing help writing college essays, completing applications and navigating the financial aid process. Seniors are expressing concern about the transition to college and career that will undoubtedly be altered by COVID-19.

CFES is addressing these concerns by hosting live webinars on the components of college and career readiness. The interactive series began in March with a webinar on leadership featuring Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores. Later this month, Don Outing, Vice President for Equity and Community at Lehigh University, will talk about key retention strategies that start long before a student ever sets foot on a college campus. Outing is internationally known for helping underserved students pursue careers in STEM.

Future webinars are scheduled in business, education, personal finance, diversity and science with speakers who will also focus on CFES Essential Skills that students can apply to their own pathways.

“The COVID shut down will transform forever how we ready students for college and careers and how education is delivered,” said CFES President Rick Dalton. “This is a challenging time, but one that is already producing innovative ways for helping students pursue postsecondary opportunities.”

CFES schools that emphasize Essential Skills such as perseverance, agility and leadership are experiencing strong student engagement. Beekmantown Central School in rural upstate New York, for example, has near-perfect online attendance and strong student support from CFES-GEAR UP Fellows.

“Educators at Beekmantown deserve a ton of credit for being way out in front of this crisis,” said Brett McClelland, a CFES-GEAR UP Fellow at Beekmantown who co-produced this Essential Skills video with Fellow Mallory Carpenter. “All year long we teach students Essential Skills, which they need now more than ever.”

The Essential Skills have been utilized in meaningful ways by students and staff at over 200 CFES schools in 30 states. Science teacher Kelly Larrow, who teaches a CFES course at Mulberry Middle School in Florida, is making masks and scrunchies for nurses and school staff on the technology team who are handing out laptops to students to take home (photo attached).

An hour away, at Booker Middle School in Sarasota, CFES liaison Haley Shaffer sends daily messages to her students about “persevering through these tough times by using agility and leadership to be great students.” Other CFES schools have emphasized the importance of Essential Skills like teamwork while delivering food and laptops to students in rural and urban areas.

CFES has also received tremendous support from its corporate and college partners in the form of online programming such as weekly virtual science cafes, live chats with leading scientists and other experts in a broad range of fields.