June 16th, 2022, By Kim Dedam

ESSEX | CFES Brilliant Pathways was awarded over $1.2 million this spring from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development Program.

The federal funding will help the education resource organization reach 4,000 more students in the North Country, providing college and career-readiness programs through local schools.

The funding was announced by CFES Brilliant Pathways President and CEO Rick Dalton and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who helped establish the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development Program (RPED) two years ago.

Though managed under the U.S. Department of Education, RPED is an economic development program. Resources totaling nearly $10 million are set aside for grant application by higher educational institutions, related programs or organizations that work “to improve rates of postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion among rural students through development of high-quality career pathways aligned to high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand industry sectors and occupations in the region.”

The call for applications went out last November, anticipating eight organizations would win funding of between $1 million up to $1,237,500, the amount awarded to CFES.

Funding is to be used over a three-year period.

The grant adds to resources previously awarded to CFES. In 2018, the organization won a significant, seven-year grant of $11.6 million from the Department of Education for their GEAR UP program, which established partner relationships with seven school districts in the North Country.

CFES said the $11.6 million would be utilized in “New York’s heavily rural North Country to prepare low-income students for college. We’ll follow each of the 2,075 students as they make their way through high school,” Dalton said of the funds.

Students involved in GEAR UP attend Ausable Valley, Beekmantown, Crown Point, Malone, Moriah, Ticonderoga and Willsboro central schools.

“CFES Brilliant Pathways knows what it takes to help students in rural areas gain the skills needed for college and career readiness: We’re located in a small town in northern New York, we’ve worked with dozens of schools in rural areas, and we understand the unique challenges faced by these communities,” Dalton said of the GEAR UP award.

The 2022 funding targets continued program development, Dalton said in a statement, announcing the additional Dept. of Education monies.

“We intend to not only lift up 4,000 young people in our region, but to build a program that will have a ripple effect for tens of thousands of other rural children around the country,” he said.

Calls to CFES to learn more about additional programs were not returned. But the new enrollment period for schools to join New Beginnings at CFES Brilliant Pathways is open through the end of June.

Separate from GEAR UP, New Beginnings has a $30,000 enrollment fee for schools, offering college readiness planning and training to reach at least 100 students over a three-year period. CFES provides advisor resources and training, on-site coordinators and virtual resources. Full scholarships are provided to two schools and half-scholarships are available to 20 additional schools, defraying the cost bu $15,000 per year for three years.

Information about New Beginnings and an application to participate is online: brilliantpathways.org


Expansion at CFES comes as Dalton was conferred an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Vermont during 2022 Commencement ceremonies.

UVM presented Dalton with a Doctor of Human Letters, honoris causa, on May 22.

The college thanked the CFES Brilliant Pathways founder for helping rural and underserved student populations attain access to higher education.

In a statement, UVM said: “More than 200 graduates from high schools in the Bronx, New York’s most multiethnic and least affluent borough, are UVM Catamounts now thanks to a partnership forged by Mr. Dalton in 2000.

“Connecting key UVM leaders with Bronx high school principal Jerry Garfin, the program with UVM initiated by CFES Brilliant Pathways is considered one of the most significant school-college partnerships ever launched in higher education.”

UVM said the “Admitted students benefit from scholarships aimed at making the university more diverse, and the increased cross-culturalism deeply enhances the UVM community.”

The partnership is only one aspect of success the university highlighted in Dalton’s work.

“Mr. Dalton’s goal is to help another 100,000 students become college and career ready over the next five years, and a growing body of CFES Brilliant Pathways alumni are now serving as mentors to the next generation of CFES Scholars in a cycle of support that keeps growing stronger.”

Stefanik said she was proud that over $1.2 million in taxpayer funds will return to the North Country district, allowing students greater opportunities to enroll in college, receive their degree, and engage in the workforce.

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