Newswise — ESSEX, NY – Over 100 volunteers from area colleges, hospitals, businesses and law enforcement traveled to schools across the North Country on Jan. 14 for the region’s largest single-day mentoring event ever to share their own stories and offer career advice to more than 3,000 students.

Mentoring Madness, sponsored by CFES Brilliant Pathways, gave students in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties an opportunity to learn about potential professions and the steps it takes to get there. Mentors also focused on the importance of practicing Essential Skills taught by CFES such as perseverance and agility to be successful in life.

“CFES and this event help students to be deliberate in what they put their energy into and are guiding them to align their strengths with their passions,” said Larry Allan, Dean of Judicial Review at SUNY-Plattsburgh, who mentored at Beekmantown.“At its core, CFES assists students in the development of the essential skills they need to navigate school, interpersonal relationships, and ultimately life.”

The daylong event was part of a $12 million U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant secured by CFES Brilliant Pathways – a global non-profit in Essex, NY that has helped more than 100,000 students become college and career ready since 1991. Mentoring is a key component of CFES programming, along with postsecondary pathways and Essential Skills taught by fulltime CFES-GEAR UP Fellows.

“In class, we learn about CFES Essential Skills like teamwork and leadership, so today was great because we got to hear people talk about those things in real life,” said Beekmantown 5th-grader Lizzy Burnham.

A goal of Mentoring Madness is to bring mentors from different professions so that students are exposed to many careers. Mentors ranged in age and experience from Middlebury College students to professionals from the UVM Health Network, University of Vermont, Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Plattsburgh YMCA, Norsk Titanium, UFirst Federal Credit Union, and others.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to share our experiences with such a welcoming school district,” said Joe Zeitler, Assistant Director of Admissions at Castleton University, who mentored at Ticonderoga. “CFES Mentor Madness Day is the best way for students to interact and ask questions about college and career readiness to professionals. It was a true success.”

Mentors focused on CFES Brilliant Pathways’ core value that education is the ticket to a successful future, whether it be a four-year degree or a certificate of value in the trades. Former attorney Jack Helfgott, owner of Yipes Yipes! Auto Accessories & Graphics, told students that he was able to change professions multiple times because he had a college degree, and that they would be creating opportunities for themselves by doing the same.

By the end of the day, mentors said they got as much out of the experience as the students. “Being a mentor at a CFES program was not only beneficial for the students, but especially so for me,” said Helfgott. “The interaction with the students reminded me of all the potential that will be leading us in the future and reinvigorated myself to look at all opportunities.”

Volunteers mentored at the following CFES Brilliant Pathways schools: Crown Point, Boquet Valley, Keene, Ticonderoga, Peru, Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, Beekmantown, Moriah, Willsboro and Ausable Valley.

CFES Brilliant Pathways is a nonprofit that helps urban and rural students become college and career ready through Core Practices and programs that build Essential Skills and college and career knowledge. We currently serve 25,000 students in 30 states and Ireland.