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Ti Kiwanis hear about CFES program

TICONDEROGA Andrea McDonald, Ticonderoga resident and director of special projects & program director for College For Every Student (CFES), recently addressed her fellow Ticonderoga Kiwanians. McDonalds subject was the evolution of her organization from the original name under which it had worked for 14 years, Foundation for Excellent Schools (FES), to its current CFES name and the fine-tuning of the organizations strategy which had accompanied that name change. An obstacle almost from the beginning, McDonald said, had been the appearance of the word foundation in the original name. While perfectly valid nomenclature for FESs structure and mission, the word foundation in common parlance has come to signify a pool of funds available for grant to and use by other institutions. FES, on the other hand, was and is an organization that is itself a seeker of grants and contributions in furtherance of its mission of working to improve schools nationwide and the futures to which those schools students can aspire. A second impetus, this primarily affecting the organizations strategy, had been FESs discovery over the years that simply improving schools was not enough. FES had gradually introduced various tactics that could collectively be referred to as Scholar Programs and that focused both on the schools and on making the most of individual students promise. This alteration of strategy was essentially a concession that, in todays world, a push simply to finish high school instead of quitting after, say, the ninth grade, was normally insufficient support for an individuals chance at ultimate success and that the real goal was some sort of higher education whether a four-year college, a two year college, or a meaningful trade-school program that had become necessary to that chance for success. Accordingly, FES changed its name to CFES, adding to its title the word college, a term to indicate not only traditional four-year college but all formal education beyond the secondary-school level. This change in approach had proved readily and dramatically successful, McDonald reported, and her organization, as well as the sources of funds that supported it, strongly favored CFESs new orientation. The basic idea espoused by CFES has remained the same: that CFES deals with a school organization as it finds it and works to optimize the schools performance and its way of effecting that performance as it has grown up over the years. This is an idea opposed to the theory-backed approach to school improvement, which seeks to restructure a schools organization, curriculum, etc., in accordance with theoretical tenets expounded by an outside force. The difference for CFES is that its emphasis is now on serving students, rather than a school district as a whole although it is the school district that chooses whether the entire student body or a selected group of particularly promising students will receive that attention and in convincing students and their parents that the traditional ways of earning a living, often served adequately heretofore by possession of a high-school diploma, are becoming a thing of the past. McDonald notes that the huge majority of students with whom CFES deals will be the first in their families to go to college or other higher education. The CFES program consists of three particular areas of emphasis: - Mentoring, by adults of students and also by students of younger students. - Student leadership, including kids participation in fashioning the CFES program adopted by a particular school system. - Pathways to college, consisting of both off-site and on-site introduction of students and their parents to colleges and their ways As to what CFES is doing and has done for years, here are some statistics reported by CFES schools as of the end of the most recently completed academic year: - 66 percent improvement in school attendance. - 62 percent improvement in school grades. - 64 percent improvement in school discipline. - 97 percent college attendance by students from bottom economic quartile exposed to the CFES program, versus 10 percent nationally. - Average number of students selected by a school system for CFES training: 50 to more than 100. An additional goal already in CFESs cross-hairs, according to McDonald, is college retention i.e., assisting college students in remaining in college. For students from rural areas this can be a particular problem because the college years will often be the young persons first time away from home and family and an opportunity to become homesick. For inner-city students, the problem can be just the reverse, according to an interview with a young man from a poor section of Brooklyn attending Plattsburgh State: Sleep-away college can be the students first opportunity to be away from his home society and its confining strictures and thus an opportunity to have more of a blast than is consistent with solid college performance. A goal not yet fully in CFESs cross-hairs is the issue of students returning to live whence they came, especially in small towns, once they have been away for their higher education and the initial years of practical experience in their professions which are often available only in much larger communities. This is a goal which your humble correspondent, a strong proponent of CFES, plans to continue urging CFES to focus its cross-hairs on though clearly part of the function of achieving this goal is to make those small towns of origin more interesting and desirable places in which to live, presenting both commercial and cultural opportunities by which such communities are today often under-served. The Kiwanis Club of Ticonderoga, now in its 81st year, is a service club that is one of the oldest Kiwanis Clubs in the nation and the largest in the Adirondacks Region. Meetings are held over lunch on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. at the Ti Pi Restaurant on Wayne Avenue just south of Montcalm St. during the colder months and at the Ti Country Club during the warmer months. Visitors and applications for membership are welcomed.

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