With a seed grant from the Daniels Fund that has been matched by private sources, the National Rural Scholars Program will enable each of the schools to work alongside a college or university to ensure that at least 50 students from the school receive academic support, along with the practical advice and counseling needed to choose the right college and successfully navigate the admissions process. Student leadership and family support, mentoring, and help in the pathway to college are important components of the program. Participating students are also given opportunities for summer enrichment and special assistance in locating financial aid.

“The path to graduation and higher education can be an obstacle course for any student, but it’s particularly difficult for young people from low-income rural communities, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college,” said FES President Rick Dalton. “Through the National Rural Scholars Program, we can help these young people connect with mentors who inspire them to make the academic progress needed to graduate and be admitted to college, and provide practical guidance along the way.”

National Rural Schools Program Process

After the initial selection of schools and partnering colleges, FES will conduct planning and training workshops for teams from each school-college partnership to help partnerships develop plans and harness existing resources. As the program is activated, students at each school will have mentors and will be engaged in activities to create a useful road map to college, such as:

*Pathways to college workshops for sixth through ninth graders and their families to help them understand how to access college and financial aid.

*Student-to-student mentoring, whereby students become mentors to younger peers. High school students, for example, will mentor middle school students, and middle schoolers will mentor those in elementary school.

*Admissions and financial aid informational programs, through which admissions and financial aid officers will provide information targeted to tenth graders.

*College visits to ensure that students and their families experience campus life firsthand.

*College application assistance, whereby young alumni from partnering colleges work with seniors to complete their college applications.

*Job shadowing and career awareness activities, through which seniors from schools visit corporate partners to learn about careers in business and industry.

For 15 years, FES has successfully used linkages to higher education institutions as a tool to raise aspirations and achievement. Since its founding in 1991, FES has helped more than 100,000 youth in 350 schools in 25 states strengthen academic performance, graduate from high school, and pursue post-secondary education. As a nonprofit organization committed to helping students take steps to prepare for, access, and succeed in college, FES works alongside educators to develop practices that sustain a culture of achievement in schools located primarily in low-income communities.

Schools and colleges interested in participating in the National Rural Scholars Program should complete applications that are available on www.fesnet.org by February 1, 2007. FES will select schools and colleges by March, 2007.

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