CFES plans to help one million more low-income students around the world become college and career ready over the next decade.

Rick Dalton, CEO and president of CFES, communicated this goal to 380 K-16 educators and CFES Scholars, alumni and program directors at the organization’s 22nd annual National Conference in Burlington, Vermont Oct. 28 and Oct. 29. The conference attendees then participated in workshops, panels and roundtables where they shared best practices and innovative approaches. 

By focusing on three Core Practices—Mentoring, Leadership Through Service and Pathways to College and Career—CFES has helped 100,000 students in the United States and Ireland develop the Essential Skills to get to college, through college and become career ready. 

“We will expand our reach and deepen our impact, and harness the digital tools of the 21st century,” Dalton said in his introductory remarks at the conference.

The CFES evidence-based model is currently being integrated in 200 rural and urban schools throughout the United States and in Ireland. Dalton envisions that CFES will expand into five additional countries by 2018.

In the recently published book, “CFES: A Practitioner’s Guide to Building College and Career Readiness,” authors Dalton and Edward P. St. John point out, “Technology is ever-changing, as are educational systems across districts, states and nations, colleges, and labor markets. The best programs accommodate for that change.”

Educational practitioners in partnering schools customize CFES’ Core Practices to make their students college and career ready. In Ireland, CFES partner Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) at Trinity College in Dublin has provided the CFES program to more than 35,000 students.

Google Evangelist Jaime Casap, one of the conference’s keynote speakers, said that by developing Essential Skills, including problem-solving, team-building, flexibility, leadership and other key competencies, students will be able to think in ways that are relevant to the ever-changing technology-driven world. “We live in a world of constant and consistent iteration,” Casap said. “There’s no failure or success; there’s just the next version of whatever you are doing.”                          

Casap emphasized that students must be able to collaborate, an Essential Skill in the learning process. “Real collaboration is the ability to listen, ask good questions, the ability to change your mind and build consensus.”

Casap said that developing Essential Skills will “bring education to the next level.”

CFES Scholars, those who take part in the CFES Program through their schools, are often the first ones in their families to go to college.

Addressing the conference attendees, Jhaneil Jump, CFES alumna from Peru High School in Peru, NY, said, “I am the first in my family to attend college. Growing up I had no one to enlighten me about college, and CFES did that.”

“The impact [of CFES] goes beyond anything we could imagine,” Google’s Casap said.  “The impact goes on for generations.”

In order for students to aspire to go to college, they first must believe they can get to college, an idea expressed by another keynote speaker at the conference, Erin Gruwell. Gruwell, author of “The Freedom Writers Diary” (and former teacher of underserved 14-year-olds) said she wanted her students to believe they could “go anywhere, do anything and be anyone.” The inspiration to create the book grew out of a question    Gruwell asked herself after experiencing the hopelessness in her classroom: “How can I make a connection [with these kids]?” Gruwell then challenged 150 students to express themselves through individual writing entries that formed the book.

The CFES Program helps schools extend the learning process by making vital life connections—to community leaders, college representatives, corporate partners and other key people in the school-college-career pathway process.

“CFES has completely transformed my life,” said Karina Mendez, CFES Scholar from Richard R. Green High School in New York City. “I was so introverted. Being in CFES I have formed a family with those people who are willing to engage themselves. Through CFES I have learned where my true passions are and where I see myself. CFES has proved to be my home, proved to be a community.”

Dalton sees the CFES Program as a transformational force within an educational and a global context. “Our work is about leveraging education—specifically a college degree to move our scholars to 21st-century jobs. It’s about opportunity. It’s about changing life trajectories.”