The following article was originally published by Sun Community News on June 7, 2021.

ESSEX |Twenty rural schools in Northern New York and Vermont will share in a $1.5 million college-readiness program designed by the nonprofit Brilliant Pathways of Essex, the organization announced this week.

Among the winners were schools in Crown Point, Plattsburgh, Long Lake, Ellenburg Depot, Champlain and Tupper Lake. More than 70 schools applied to be part of the initiative.

The program, announced in April, called on schools to apply for the funding, which will go toward a broad suite of services and networks that helps rural students enter college and succeed once they get there.

Currently, a lower percentage of rural students attend college compared with their urban and suburban counterparts, and they drop out at far higher rates.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the responses, both in their number and quality,” said Rick Dalton, president & CEO of CFES Brilliant Pathways in a press release. “Too many rural young people lack the skills and education to take on today’s high-wage jobs, and they are being left out of the 21st-century economy as a result. The goal of this program is to level the playing field for a large group of rural students and ultimately rural communities.”

The schools chosen demonstrated a need for the program and a strong commitment to working in partnership with CFES to make it successful, Dalton said.

“It’s gratifying to see so many schools apply for the North Country program,” said former New York governor George Pataki, who serves on the North Country Brilliant Pathways board. “It shows not only that there is a real need, but also that schools have confidence in CFES to deliver a program that will help students widen their horizons and achieve their goals. I’m very proud to be part of this effort.”

According to a press statement, North Country Brilliant Pathways will offer a variety of services to the participating schools that include:

— A dedicated professional program director for each school will make in-person and virtual visits throughout the year and guide the development of college and career plans.

— Myriad professional development and enrichment opportunities for educators, partners and families, such as monthly college- and career-readiness advisor training certified by the University of Vermont.

— A vast library of resources, plus partnerships and networking opportunities with 200 colleges/universities and 230 businesses and corporations.

— Opportunities for networking, collaboration, and recognition, including becoming a nationally recognized School of Distinction.

— A partnership with an urban school to promote cultural exchange and connection and prepare students to navigate a diverse world.

— Each participating student will complete a 10-point college and career readiness plan annually that is certified by CFES.

Dalton said the new program will be expanded in the future. “We hope to find additional funding to work with other schools that applied. All of them submitted strong applications. We also see the program as a national model that could be put in place in rural communities around the country.”

While rural students enroll college at only slightly lower rates than urban students (59% vs 61%), far fewer stay. Just 29% of rural Americans aged 18-24 are enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to 42% of all Americans in that age range, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The pandemic has worsened the problem. FAFSA completions, a sign of intent to go to college, dropped 10% nationally this year and 15% in rural areas.

The following schools were chosen for the program:

New York

Brushton-Moira Central School, Brushton
Case Middle School, Watertown
Crown Point Central School, Crown Point
General Brown Central School, Dexter
Hermon DeKalb Central School, DeKalb Junction
JW Leary Junior High School, Massena
Keene Central School, Keene Valley
LaFargeville Central School, LaFargeville
Long Lake Central School, Long Lake
Northeastern Clinton Central School, Champlain
Northern Adirondack High School, Ellenburg Depot
Norwood Norfolk High School, Norwood
Plattsburgh High School, Plattsburgh
Saint Lawrence Central Elementary School, Brasher Falls
Tupper Lake Middle High School, Tupper Lake


Brighton Elementary School, Island Pond
Enosburg Falls High School, Enosburg Falls
Leland and Gray Union High School, Townshend
Otter Valley Union High School, Brandon
Riverside Middle School, Springfield

By Tim Rowland