The following was originally published in The Daily Star.

By Vicky Klukkert

Delaware Academy Central School at Delhi and Gilbertsville-Mount Upton were recently recognized by CFES Brilliant Pathways as Schools of Distinction for their efforts in helping students become college and career ready.

“We were selected as one of 26 schools across the United States for our collective work on programs that prepare students in grades kindergarten through twelve for college and career pathways,” DA Superintendent Kelly Zimmerman said in an email. According to a media release from CFES Brilliant Pathways, two schools in Ireland were also given the distinction.

CFES Brilliant Pathways was known as College For Every Student prior to 2018, when the name was changed, its website said.

The competitive award acknowledges the development and execution of a highly-effective plan for the entire student body to become college and career ready through the CFES 10-Point College and Career Readiness Plan, the media release said.

The plan encompasses the organization’s three core practices of Essential Skills™, Mentoring and Pathways to College and Career. To become a School of Distinction, a school must fulfill a meticulous and varied set of criteria.

These include implementing cutting-edge, school wide programs that advance college and career readiness, the release said.

More information about how the two districts were chosen was emailed by CFES on Wednesday evening. According to the email, G-MU “had a great mentoring program with every student serving as a mentor or was a mentee; all students completed a College and Career Readiness map to help them create a roadmap for their future; students enrolled in career courses to identify and practice the CFES Essential Skills: Goal setting – Identifying what you want, and how you can achieve it, Teamwork – Collaborating with others to reach a common goal, Leadership – Taking charge of your future and helping your peers do the same, Agility – Adapting and responding to changing circumstances, Perseverance – The determination to overcome challenges to achieve your goals, and Networking – The art of turning an acquaintance into a supporter. Students were exposed to a variety of career options and then built their coursework based on their interests.”

According to the email, it was DA’s first year participating in the program, and earning the distinction “is pretty rare.”

The email said DA has a “robust tiered mentoring program; completed scholar mapping to map out their college and career pathway; held a mentor career fair with younger students; partnered with SUNY Delhi for their high school students to have mentors and more exposure to opportunities within their backyard.”

Zimmerman said the district received a grant in 2021 to participate in the three-year program offered by CFES Brilliant Pathways. “This program provided technical support and resources to advance the work we had already started through the efforts of our district and building leaders, school counselors, and teacher leaders, which focused on increasing pathways to graduation, post-secondary preparedness, and an awareness of the vast list of possible careers in our ever changing society,” she said in an email. “Part of the training for our teacher leaders included the implementation of the CFES 10-Point College and Career Readiness Plan and essential skills.”

She said high school students were also trained as mentors, who then mentored elementary and middle school students and “focused on community, leadership, character, and asset building, in order to achieve future goals and build a stronger inclusive school community.”

A global leader in helping low-income students become college and career ready, CFES currently supports 25,000 students through partnerships with 200 rural and urban K-12 schools and districts in 30 states and Ireland, the release said.