The following was originally published by The Daily Star.

By Vicky Klukkert

Six local school districts were recently recognized by CFES Brilliant Pathways as Schools of Distinction for their efforts in helping students become college and career ready.

Delaware Academy Central School at Delhi, Gilbertsville-Mount Upton Central School, Milford Central School, Otsego Area Occupational Center, Richfield Springs Central School and Worcester Central School were among the 37 schools from across the U.S. and Ireland that were named a school of distinction, a media release said.

“It is an honor to be a School of Distinction,” Richfield Springs Superintendent Tom Piatti said. “It is a long, detailed process to meet the criteria.”

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

Piatti said elementary physical education teacher Jodi Bard and kindergarten teacher Jan Wust are the program’s advisors and “do an amazing job. Their energy is off the charts and they are extremely creative in the opportunities that they provide to our students.”

Piatti said the district has participated in the program for more than 20 years and was named a School of Distinction in 2019. The district offers “students a variety of college and career readiness opportunities, as well as a mentor program,” he said. “Our mentor program consists of students that mentor other students as well as our faculty members mentoring our students. With the help of all of our staff we are able to go on college visits, career fairs, college exploration days, financial aid nights and equip them with essential skills that include perseverance, agility, goal setting, networking, teamwork and leadership.”

Milford Superintendent Kristen Shearer said Milford has participated in the program since it began 32 years ago and is one of 13 schools in the Leatherstocking Region. It is the first year the district has been named a school of distinction. “We are honored to have been chosen for the award,” she said. “I am thrilled for our team who work tirelessly to provide opportunities for all students through this amazing program. We continue to be humbled by The Clark Foundation’s generosity in supporting students in our area.”

Shearer said Milford has “a robust program, where we incorporate the Core Practices of Mentoring, Essential Skills, and Pathways to Career and College readiness. Our program scored high points in following the 10 Point plan for career readiness.”

The Worcester Central School has also participated in the program for 32 years, Secondary Principal Melissa Leonard and Elementary Principal Katie Sill said in a joint email. The district was recognized in the 2018-2019 school year they said.

“We are proud of the Worcester team and everyone who works with helping our students develop the skills necessary to be successful in their careers and college,” they said in the email. “We are honored to be recognized as a School of Distinction. This designation affirms the work that our staff does to create a culture of college and career readiness and to prepare our students to achieve academic and career success. We believe strongly that our students deserve every opportunity to succeed, and CFES affords them experiences that they may not otherwise have in our rural community.”

For the second year in a row, Delaware Academy has been named to the list. DA Superintendent Kelly Zimmerman said last year when the district was recognized it was the first year the district participated in the program. In a media release she acknowledged the district’s “staff and students for their hard work and dedication to social-emotional wellness and forging pathways to future career success, achieving this recognition two years in a row.” Delaware Academy’s plan featured a guest speaker series, career mentoring partnerships, the Future Focused Career Exploration Program and an annual College & Career Fair, the release said.

It is also the second year in a row Gilbertsville-Mount Upton has been named a School of Distinction. According to a previous Daily Star article, they were also recognized during the 2018-2019 school year.

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

The Clark Foundation funds the program for local schools in Otsego county, Shearer said. Last year, Zimmerman said the district received a grant to participate in the program for three years.

A global leader in helping underserved students become college and career ready, CFES currently supports 20,000 students through partnerships with 200 rural and urban K-12 schools and districts in 20 states and Ireland, the release said.