CFES seeks Vermont & New York schools to address crisis among rural students

ADDISON COUNTY — Here’s a shocking truth about rural America: Children living in rural areas are the likeliest group to grow up in poverty, experience poor health outcomes, leave school before college, and fall victim to alcohol and drug abuse.

That applies to the rural South and Midwest, but also to many areas of Vermont and upstate New York.

“Rural America needs a lifeline, but only 3% of philanthropy goes toward rural causes,” writes Rick Dalton of College For Every Student (CFES), a foundation based in Essex, N.Y. “As we ignore America’s rural crisis, we ignore a quarter of the U.S. population — neglect that puts the entire nation at risk.

“While students in rural America graduate high school at higher rates than urban students,” Dalton writes, “the rapidly accelerating rural-urban divide is leaving them behind. Traditional jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and mining are disappearing from rural areas, and most of the 22 million jobs created in the U.S. in the past decade have gone to major cities, far from declining rural areas. Because of dwindling local opportunities, the promise and potential of rural youth is being lost.”

Today, Dalton continued, “rural high school students are less likely to attend college and more likely to drop out than their urban and suburban peers.”

In fact, Dalton said at a Thursday press conference on the initiative, the percentage of rural students attending and graduating from college has gotten worse over the past two decades, not better.

To address that crisis, CFES this week launched the North Country Brilliant Pathways program that will support student success and school improvement at the primary and secondary level at no cost to participating schools. CFES is seeking 20 area schools to participate in the program in Vermont and upstate New York and will raise and match $1.5 million to support the program in its first three years. Applications from interested schools are due May 14, and the selection of the schools chosen will be announced on June 1. The academic program will be launched in August 2021.

The program’s intent is help schools and students form pathways that ensure rural students attend post-secondary education so they are qualified for higher-paying jobs and careers.

Look for more details on the North Country Brilliant Pathways program online at: tinyurl.com/BrilliantPathways.

A school interested in taking part in the program can fill out an application here.

The program was launched in conjunction with the publication of Dalton’s new book, “Rural America’s Pathways to College and Career; Steps for Student Success and School Improvement.” According to Dalton, the book tells “the story of how schools in small towns across the U.S. are losing ground to their urban and suburban counterparts and how schools can reverse this trend.”

CFES, also called Brilliant Pathways, has long been on the front lines of the battle to close the rural opportunity gap. For over 30 years, CFES has helped more than 100,000 students become college- and career-ready. This year alone, CFES is working with 20,000 students in 200 schools in 20 states and Ireland, with a goal of sending another 100,000 students to college over the next 10 years.

For more information about the program, contact Rick Dalton at dalton@brilliantpathways.org.

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Addison County Independent