TICONDEROGA - The Armstrong Room at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid buzzed with the energy and enthusiasm of 70 educators intent on making the most of their time together.
It was the first day of the College For Every Student School-College Partnership Workshop, designed to build and strengthen alliances between schools and colleges to help under-served youth gain access to and succeed in college.
And these educators, representing some 50 CFES schools and colleges throughout the Northeast, were tasked with creating collaborative projects that would de-mystify the college process and inspire students to pursue higher education.
This goal is at the heart of CFES, a nonprofit that works with 130 schools in communities from Massachusetts to Hawaii, its program engaging more than 15,000 students, most of whom would be the first in their family to attend college.
Ticonderoga and Crown Point schools participated.
The workshop showcased recent partnership accomplishments and celebrated new connections that are opening doors to new experiences and greater resources for students.
"It's all about connections," said CFES President & CEO Rick Dalton. "Schools are eager to tap into the resources offered by the colleges, and the colleges are anxious to do what they can to help prepare under-served students for the rigors of college...to help them realize their dream. It's a win-win situation."
Beyond the time devoted to networking and planning, participants attended presentations and discussions that explored issues of concern and interest to both school and college educators.
A panel on rural and urban exchanges highlighted the evolving relationship between high school students from Willsboro Central School and their peers from Wadleigh Secondary School in Harlem.
That this multi-cultural exchange, with its concurrent focus on college readiness, was organized primarily by students was most intriguing, and impressive, to workshop participants.
And the interest in replicating its success was clear in the proposed initiatives coming out of the meeting. For example, 18 sixth graders from Crown Point Central School will spend two days in New York City with Wadleigh sixth graders touring Columbia University and visiting local landmarks such as the Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo.
In a subsequent panel on high-impact college visits, admissions directors from Paul Smith's College and Skidmore College stressed the importance of exposing students to a variety of colleges, both urban and rural, and encouraging them to compare and contrast different schools to determine the best fit for their individual needs and interests.
For Ticonderoga Central School District, a longstanding alliance with Middlebury College, and a corps of college student mentors, has had a similar impact, broadening horizons and instilling dreams of college for young people whose life experiences, like those of students in Crown Point and Willsboro, are limited by family income and rural isolation.
Exposure to college and interactions with college students also were among the key strategies promoted by a panel of college representatives led by Steve Light, an associate dean at State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh. Further, Light and his colleagues stressed academic preparation, finances, and career goals as critical factors influencing college access, as well as college retention and graduation rates.
"We are committed to becoming America's preeminent organization at creating and strengthening school-college partnerships that help under-served students get to and through college. This workshop is just one of the many events CFES sponsors to promote and sustain a high level of networking and collaboration among our partners," said Dalton. "The resource sharing, the camaraderie, the specific activities that evolve mean more opportunities for CFES students. And that means the pathway to college gets wider and easier for them to follow."