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Every year, dozens of CFES schools change life trajectories by guiding first-generation students down a college pathway. Like Eximius in the Bronx, which sends over 95 percent of its students to college with over $3 million in scholarship funding. Or the Friendship (NY) School District, which has boosted college enrollment more than 30 percent since becoming a CFES member. “CFES was the first one to believe in us,” says Judy May, Friendship’s superintendent. “They have had a bigger impact on the lives of our students than they know.”

children entering schools

Crown Point Central School

Crown Point Central School had just been placed on the New York State schools-in-need-of-improvement list and was on the verge of being closed.

Superintendent Shari Branock remembers feeling devastated and desperate to turn around the school she loved to ensure the future success of her students and the surrounding community. She knew a major culture change focusing on college and career was in order—so she reached out to CFES Brilliant Pathways.

“I knew that CFES Brilliant Pathways had a national reputation for turning rural and urban schools around with a focus on college and career readiness,” said Brannock. “They understood our needs and how to get us where we needed to go.”

The partnership started with an inventory of what the school was already doing to prepare students for college and the workplace, followed by a planning and training workshop in which Brannock and her team created a turnaround plan. CFES began exposing Crown Point students to college early and often through its network of partners.

For Crown Point, a potential partner was hidden in plain sight, right across Lake Champlain.

“CFES introduced us to Middlebury College,” said Brannock. The first group of Middlebury College mentors were 10 athletes. The mentor team has since expanded to over 200 college athletes from Middlebury, the University of Vermont, SUNY Plattsburgh, Castleton University, and Saint Michael’s College, who now work with over 20 CFES schools in Vermont and New York State.

Crown Point students were also expected to play an active role in their own advancement. As part of CFES’s emphasis on the Essential Skills™ (competencies students need to succeed in school, college, the workplace, and life), CFES professionals worked with Crown Point students on goal setting and leadership, while these students, with support from their mentors, organized college and career readiness activities throughout the school.

It wasn’t long before Crown Point saw a significant increase in its state assessment scores, moving them from the bottom to one of the top schools in the Adirondack region.

The three-year process, according to Brannock, “was built around a culture of trust, respect, and empathy.” Brannock is quick to point out that their approach “can work for other communities too, regardless of culture, socioeconomic status, or existing barriers.

“As a CFES school, we are giving kids a boost in what we are doing in their everyday lives so they are getting a more quality education, and they are realizing, ‘Hey, I kind of like this,’” principal Tara Spaulding said. “CFES takes them on college visits, brings kids up from New York City to shadow, and sends our kids to New York City to shadow. We are giving them opportunities. We’re opening up doors. There is not one week in this school year where our kids don’t have a chance to do or see something different.”

As with other schools it works with, CFES hosts regular activities to promote college and career readiness: a school-wide college rally to promote a culture of college and career readiness; college visits; college career fairs; a student leadership team; alumni panels; service projects; Essential Skills workshops and activities; senior project portfolios, and early college awareness week.

CFES’s impact is evident throughout Crown Point Central School. When CFES first began working with the school, 52 percent of its graduating seniors attended college. Today, 95 percent graduate from high school, 85 percent attend college, and 80 percent of Crown Point students who go to college graduate on time. And recently, Harvard and University of Albany graduate students have been studying Crown Point as an example of an exemplary rural school.

Among Crown Point’s many success stories is Emily, a first-generation college student. She defied the odds by becoming one of the first students from Crown Point to attend an Ivy League school, enrolling at Cornell University. Emily’s story is not uncommon among CFES scholars and demonstrates how CFES makes dreams like hers come true.

“CFES is really good at teaching you the importance of identifying a goal and then creating a pathway to achieve it,” says Emily. “The reason it works so well at Crown Point is because the teachers buy in and will help you down your chosen path to success. They have cultivated an incredibly supportive environment that works hand-in-hand with CFES.”

Crown Point is not alone. Every year, dozens of CFES schools change life trajectories by guiding first-generation students down a college pathway. Eximius in the Bronx now sends over 95 percent of its students to college with over $3 million in scholarship funding to support them.