The following article originally appeared in Sun Community News

CROWN POINT | Crown Point Central School is small, so small that seniors and pre-kindergarteners eat their lunch together in the cafeteria.

But from small things great things come, and for the ninth straight year Crown Point has been recognized for skillfully preparing its students for college and productive careers. It’s an award that belongs to students and teachers alike.

Crown Point — along with Ticonderoga Middle and High schools and Saranac High School in the Adirondacks — was given School of Distinction recognition by the CFES-Brilliant Pathways, an Essex-based organization that was founded in 1991 to help students in low-income communities further their education.

According to its mission statement, CFES (College for Every Student)-Brilliant Pathways “Introduces students to college and career possibilities; provide needed resources to educators, such as professional development, support and evaluation, and workshops; help students and families demystify the path to college.”

Crown Point High School English teacher Rachael Charron produces a thick binder to illustrate how the program has worked.

In it are clips and photos of students mentoring and being mentored, visits into the community and job-prep where they are taught what to say, what to wear and even how to shake hands at an interview. In so doing, the mystique is taken out of college.

“We make sure everyone in grades 7 through 12 steps onto a college campus at least once during the year, and for 9 through 12 it’s more than that,” Charron said.

Groups are mentored by faculty, with everyone taking part including the principal and superintendent. Students are taught essential skills, such as building confidence that will make them immune to bullying and online drama.

A group of students known as the “Lunch Bunch” works in the community, visiting, for example, residents of a Ticonderoga nursing home with whom they make crafts.

“The residents are always asking when the students are coming back,” Charron said. In return, students learn to interact and learn with other generations, sharpening their communication skills in the process.

There’s a buddy system in which a senior pals around with a kindergartner. These bonds often last — one student recently took the train to visit her buddy who had graduated and moved to New York City.

“CFES helps us make these things happen,” Charron said.

The result is that three of every four Crown Point students will enroll in college. Many of them are the first in their families to further their schooling, so parents are given help too, such as a special day when they can get help filling out financial aid forms.

Getting out in the world — taking them to the occasional show is a favorite of Charron — has helped with their networking skills and taught them that they are just as good and capable as any other student.

Middle and high school teacher Crystal Farrell said it’s been fun to watch students grow. “You’ll see boys who are big and tough and ready to tear apart a motor come in and ask when’s the next Broadway show,” she said.