MILFORD — Toby Harmon, a ninth-grader at Milford Central School, said he never imagined he would be in a room with a senator. But that was the case at State Sen. James Seward’s press conference Monday to announce a special legislative grant for the school’s Career Opportunities in Rural Education Initiative.
“I have a feeling it won’t be the last time,” Seward, R-Milford, told the energetic young man, who was one of three former CORE students in attendance.
Seward and the young men were joined by Milford Central School District Superintendent Peter Livshin and CORE Program Director Liz Rickard, who explained CORE and spoke to its benefits.
At the conference, Seward announced $273,000 in state grants he secured to assist area schools, including Charlotte Valley, Cherry Valley-Springfield, Cooperstown, Franklin, Laurens, Margaretville, Morris, South Kortright and Stamford Central Schools. The largest grant he announced is one for $38,000 to support Milford’s CORE program, which is designed to provide rural students with additional academic opportunities to help them compete in today’s global economy, Rickard said.
Between CORE’s shadowing program and Business Partnership Network, students become more aware of local job opportunities and become better prepared to make decisions about college and careers, Rickard said.
The $38,000 for Milford’s CORE program will also benefit schools in Laurens, Edmeston, Unadilla Valley, Charlotte Valley and Schenevus, as CORE is a shared service between schools.
Through CORE, students explore such topics as entrepreneurship, health care, engineering, automation and robotics, and work with local businesses such as Bassett Medical Center, New York Central Mutual, Brewery Ommegang, Springbrook and local colleges, Rickard said.
Last year, more than 242 students and adults were involved in the CORE program, including Harmon, who was excited to be in Seward’s presence, he said.
Harmon participated in CORE during seventh and eighth grade and is now helping teach the courses, he said.
“Many kids really, really enjoy it,” Harmon said. “We’ve dealt with everything from animation software, robotics kits, bio-medical stuff and forensics. There are a lot of real-world applications.”
Harmon hopes to go into either aerospace or environmental engineering, he said.
The funding announced Monday will assist with the development of new services and allow CORE to expand to more schools in the region, resulting in additional educational opportunities, Rickard said.
“The grant closes an operational gap so we can continue to serve the students,” she added.
The CORE program provides rural students with marketable skills and abilities so they can better compete with urban students who may have more resources on-hand, according to Seward. It helps “level the playing field” and guarantees “that every New York State student has the tools they need to succeed in the classroom and in life after graduation,” Seward said.
CORE helps satiate local supply and demand, Seward said. The demand? Businesses, universities, schools and professional organizations need employees with the right skill sets. The supply? More than enough local students, job seekers, community members and senior citizens who could fill those roles.
“The CORE Initiative is developed with the input of area employers, ensuring that students learn marketable skills,” Seward said. “The thing I hear most often from area business owners is the need for prospective employees with the right skill sets. CORE gives students these skills and ability to compete with other schools that may be more well off. This also benefits local companies searching for prospective employees with specific abilities.”
CORE also encourages and facilitates looking locally for jobs, Seward said.
“Perhaps the best part is that students leave the program ready to embark on careers here at home,” Seward said.