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Nonprofit aims to push rural high school grads to the next level

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:20 PM EDT
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ESSEX, N.Y. (WCAX) - A small nonprofit in New York’s North Country is dishing out some big bucks to help rural schools in New York and Vermont push graduates to the next level in their education.

“The numbers have gotten worse in the last 20 years,” said Rick Dalton, head of the CFES Brilliant Pathways in Essex, New York. He wants to change the way rural schools think about life after graduation. “Needs to involve post-secondary education. It may not be a four-year, it might be a two-year or a certificate of value, but it must involve some sort of post-secondary study or training.”

Dalton says his research shows that students living in rural areas are less likely to think of college. He hopes to tackle that through the new North Country Brilliant Pathways Program. “Our vision for the North Country Brilliant Pathways program is to create a national model of excellence,” Dalton said.

The program will offer monthly mentorship sessions for students, essential skills training, and professional development. The nonprofit has teamed up with the University of Vermont for college and career readiness training, and each rural school will be paired with an urban school for cultural exchange. “Going to be peer to peer mentorship within this, there also is going to be, just insight on how a day-to-day life differs or is the same in an urban community compared to a rural community,” said Brett Brett McClelland, director of the North Country Brilliant Pathways Program.

The goal is to offer the program in 20 schools throughout Vermont and Northern New York. The estimated cost is $1.5 million, but CFES says it’s going to foot the bill and offer it to the schools at no cost. The schools need to apply by May 14th to be considered and the program will start next school year. This program can be designed for any K-12 school and it will stay in the school for three years.

McClelland says they hope to expand the program to more schools, but the schools need to be willing to make the change.”Schools that are committed to changing the status quo, and through that application it provides the opportunity to express how you’re going to change that status quo and how you are going to commit to that opportunity,” he said.

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