TICONDEROGA - They came from as far south as Winder, Ga., and as far west as Kanehoe, Hawaii; from the rustic Adirondack region of upstate New York and the buzz and hustle of the Big Apple.
More than 100 students representing 10 College For Every Student schools - different ages, different cultures, different interests, yet united in their shared identity as CFES Scholars.
It was this common bond, and the interactive capacity of the World Wide Web, that brought them together for the first CFES Virtual Student Summit recently. For over an hour, students spanning grades 6-12 exchanged information and ideas on a range of issues that confront, and confound, school communities around the country - dropping out, school morale, peer pressure and tolerance.
The participating schools were James B. Castle High School in Hawaii; Cedaredge High School in Colorado; Robert L. Ford K-8 Explorer School in Massachusetts; Winder-Barrow Middle School in Georgia; Wells Central School and Ticonderoga Central School in upstate New York; Spencer-Van Etten Middle School in central New York; and Collegiate Institute for Math & Science, Richard R. Green High School of Teaching, and Wadleigh Secondary School in New York City.
CFES is a non-profit organization committed to helping under-served youth strengthen academic performance, graduate from high school and pursue college by helping schools empower students and by developing innovative partnerships with colleges and networks with other schools to share best practices.
During the last three years 93 percent of CFES high school seniors have gone on to college, a rate that is six times the national average for young people in this demographic.
"This summit was a huge undertaking for everyone involved," said Andrea Chivakos, the CFES program coordinator who helped promote and organize the event.
The web-conferencing program allowed the Castle Scholars to share PowerPoint presentations and other documents they created. Participants were connected by a teleconferencing system that provided direct-voice communication to enhance student interaction.
The fact that this summit was entirely student led.
"Adults helped with the mechanics of setting up the web-conferencing account and dialing into the conference call," Chivakos said, "but it was all led by the CFES Scholars."
Rick Dalton, president of CFES, said the organization has been exploring ways to bring together CFES Scholars from its schools nationwide on a regular basis.
"We continue to host regional student summits in areas where we have a critical mass of schools, such as New York City, Boston, Denver, the Adirondacks and Hawaii," Dalton said. "But there is real value in convening students from different geographic and cultural backgrounds. Many of our CFES Scholars don't have the opportunity to interact with peers beyond their own communities. We want to give them that exposure, introduce them to new experiences, broaden their horizons."
CFES Scholars from Ticonderoga Central School described their student advocate committee that allows students "to address and fix difficulties in our school."
For further information about CFES, contact Dalton at 802-236-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.