MIDDLEBURY For many students with no serious thoughts of ever attending college after high school, visiting a campus can be a daunting experience. But thanks to CFES or College for Every Student, a Weybridge-based non-profit organization that helps open new doors for underserved rural and urban students, a group of upstate New York high school students got the royal treatment at Middlebury College last week. Students from high schools in the Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Westport, and Plattsburgh area and their mentors from CFES and Middlebury College visited campus to meet older students and tour campus learning and recreational facilities upclose. CFES is committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth, said Tara Lambert, CFES program director. We want these students to prepare for, gain access to, and succeed once they enroll in college. Fome of the rural New York students visiting Middlebury last week may never have stepped foot on a college campus; most, if not all, were surprised at what they saw. I thought my school was kind of big, said one unidentified Crown Point student, but this is awesome. The cafeteria was great and the dorm rooms are cool. CFES partners with urban and rural schools from the New England states to Hawaii. The organization focuses on three vital areas where it believes it can best help underserved students, according to Lambert. First, and as early as possible, CFES with campus partners exposes students to college as a real option in life, said Lambert. Second, the organization creates mentor relationships between younger students and older individuals who can talk about college learning and life. Third, Lambert said, CFES believes that its leadership through service approach inspires young students to take responsibility and provide service to their schools and local communities to help inspire leadership skills. While targeting underserved students may seem like an uphill battle, CFES has many inspiring success stories to tell. Students never having considered college as an opportunity before have enrolled in colleges, thanks to CFES programs. Yet, theres considerable work to be done, according to Rick Dalton, president and CEO of CFES. Low income and would be first-generation college students are at greatest risk of missing out on life changing opportunity, he said. All of this is happening amidst a sobering national backdrop, Dalton said. Our 15,000 students across the country face daunting odds. These children are lagging behind their middle- and upper-middle-income peers as the education and income gap widens. If last weeks Middlebury campus tour inspires even a handful of underserved students to consider and pursue a college education to completion, then CFES will have succeeded in its mission. CFES success means Americas success, too. All of us stand to benefit in the long run with a better educated workforce that is equipped to deal with a myriad of social, financial, and technological challenges both nationally and internationally. For more information about CFES, see the organizations website www.collefes.org or call Tara Lambert at 802-462-3170.