Since CFES Brilliant Pathways was founded in 1991, rural America has experienced declines in population and jobs as well as lower aspirations among youth. On Saturday July 13, CFES reinforced its commitment to rebuild rural America by raising over $450,000 to help students become college and career ready.

Co-chaired by former New York Governor and First Lady George and Libby Pataki, the CFES Summer Gala was attended by 150 people from across the region with a passion for helping young people succeed through education and training. In particular, guests came to support CFES’ work helping students in the North Country successfully enter the 21st Century workforce.

“Aspirations among students in rural America continues to decline as their urban and suburban counterparts attend college at higher rates,” said CFES President Rick Dalton. “By showing up tonight, you are making a statement about your commitment to changing the lives of young people across the North Country and beyond.”

As the only national non-profit focused on college and career readiness located in a rural community, CFES has established itself as a leader in helping students in rural America become college and career ready. The funds raised at the gala gives CFES the ability to expand its work into 15 new schools in Vermont, New York and other rural parts of the country.

“During my time as governor, I was presented with hundreds of ideas for how to improve the lives of people,” said Gov. Pataki. “Very few came to fruition like the one Rick and Karen (Judge) created with CFES. It has changed the lives of young people across the North Country for almost 30 years.”

CFES now works in 32 states and recently expanded to Oklahoma and Texas, where it will work with two rural schools near El Paso along the Mexican border. Founded in Vermont, CFES plans to support Advance Vermont by increasing the Green Mountain State’s low college-going rate that currently ranks last in New England and among the bottom 10 nationally. CFES will also work with two new schools in Pennsylvania through a partnership with Lehigh University and CFES Board Member Don Outing, who attended the gala with Lehigh President John D. Simon and Provost Patrick V. Farrell.

“The amazing effects of our partnership with CFES have created an undeniable school culture which has helped break the status quo of low socioeconomic status, unemployment and detrimental cultural norms that have been commonplace amongst the families and students in our district for longer than we would like,” said Crown Point Principal Tara Celotti. “CFES has given, and continues to give, our students the power to say, ‘this is not how my story is going to end.’”

The Summer Gala featured a silent and live auction with paintings from nationally-renowned local artists Ernest Haas and Steven Kellogg; tickets to the Super Bowl and Masters Golf Tournament; vacation getaways; wine tastings; and other gifts and experiences.

CFES would like to thank the following lead donors for their generous support: (Platinum) Lawson and Clint Allen, Binkley and Paula Shorts, Edward Clark and Nikki Roccos; (Gold) TransPerfect; and (Silver) Carolyn and Robert Slasky; Helen Hill and Steven Kellogg; Champlain National Bank, Avery Energy, Ernst & Young, Bill and Gail Kissell; Jon and Lisa Reidel, and Gary and Susan Belske.

The following sponsors provided generous in-kind and financial support: Citizen Cider, Magic Hat Brewery, Windows & Doors By Brownell, Southern Glazers of upstate New York, University of Vermont, Lehigh University, The Waterwheel Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Boston Celtics, Shelburne Vineyard, Dartbrook Rustic Goods, Southwest Airlines, Sagamore Resort, Hotel Vermont, Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness Studio, Laura Emerson Massage, The Essex Inn, Mirror Lake Inn, Ski Butternut, High Peaks Resort, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Crown Plaza Lake Placid, Waterworks Food & Drink, Leunig’s Bistro, Malaika DosReedios Yoga, and O’Brien’s Aveda Institute.

This article was originally published by Vermont Business Magazine.