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March 25, 2014

Summit points sophomores toward career paths

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The years before college can be a daunting time for high school underclassmen, but more than 400 area sophomores are on the right track after attending a conference Thursday aimed at helping them envision a course of action for their post-graduation futures. 

At the fourth annual College For Every Student Sophomore Summit, held at SUNY Cobleskill on Thursday, local tenth-graders attended a college fair and various panel discussions to help introduce them to the possibility of college earlier in high school, said Andrea McDonald, college ambassador for College For Every Student. Cooperstown, Schenevus, Laurens, Worcester, Milford, Mount Markham, Cherry Valley-Springfield, Richfield Springs and Edmeston Central Schools sent their sophomore classes to the event which, McDonald said, is invaluable for high school students.

College For Every Student is a 23-year-old nonprofit organization committed to helping low-income youth succeed in college, McDonald said. Many of the students CFES works with are the first in their family to pursue higher education and, because of this, aren’t always familiar with the concept of college.

“They don’t see it in the same way that other students do — as a viable option,” McDonald said.

McDonald said organizers began planning for the event more than six months ago. More than 27 colleges were represented, including SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Delhi and Hartwick College. McDonald said more than 80 college and industry representatives led discussions about post-secondary education and specific career options. Volunteer representatives were present from the following industries: engineering, fine arts, business, public service, agriculture, education, health services, military and liberal arts. 

McDonald said the program was meticulously planned and well organized, to which students, or “scholars,” as CFES prefers to call them, responded well.

“‘Scholar’ is an empowering title,” McDonald said, “and makes the students stand a little taller,”

The day began with a welcome and introduction from SUNY Cobleskill Director of Admissions Bob Blanchet, McDonald said, followed by students’ individual interest-based panel discussions, lunch and a general college fair.

“Today is about you, your dreams and how you’ll reach them, and to help you figure out what you’re passionate about,” Blanchet said in his opening remarks. “Today you are not a high school student; today you are a prospective college student. Seize the opportunity.”

And seize it they did, McDonald said, noting that the students were particularly engaged and passionate in discussions this year. McDonald said she spoke with the more than 50 college representatives, and they all agreed that it was the best summit yet.

“It’s never too early to start making students aware of what college is,” McDonald said. “Especially lower income students because the earlier they hear it, the more likely they are to be able to picture and envision themselves in that situation, and see it as an option that they really can pursue and attain.”

The summit has provided students with a realistic college experience that allows them to pick a college or career path that best fits them, McDonald said. Along with the entire CFES program, it encourages low-income students to learn more about their options and pursue them. 

“It’s working,” McDonald said. “And it’s fun to watch.”