TOWNSHEND >> Leland & Gray Union Middle & High School is one of only 20 schools from across the country to receive recognition as a "School of Opportunity," a coveted national designation honoring excellent public high schools that engage in practices that build on students' strengths and create supported learning opportunities for all students.

"In collaboration with local partners, Leland & Gray serves the educational and developmental needs and aspirations of the whole child," said Carol Burris, School of Opportunity project codirector.

The National Education Policy Center, based at the University of Colorado Boulder, sponsors the Schools of Opportunity project, which identifies excellent public high schools that actively strive to close opportunity gaps — the differences in opportunities and resources that drive the wellknown achievement gaps.

"Schools play a key role in a student's life and learning, and we should hold up excellent schools as exemplars," said Kevin Welner NEPC director and project co-director. "Students' learning arises from more than just what happens in school. Research suggests that about onethird of variance among students' test scores can be attributed to schools, with the remainder likely due to poverty-related factors. Because schools play this important but not controlling role in measured learning, the Schools of Opportunity project rejects the idea that test scores identify the nation's best schools."

Over the past six years, Leland & Gray has increased academic expectations by adding Advanced Placement courses and support classes beginning in 7th grade, thereby placing the entire student body on college preparatory curriculum.


"Schools should be judged — not by the breadth of their programming — but by the depth of their staff," said Principal Bill Anton. "Leland & Gray staff have a long history of caring deeply about the student body and ensuring that no one falls through the cracks and that's why we are being recognized today."

For more information, visit

Performing arts scholarships for Windham County students

BRATTLEBORO >> A small scholarship program has been recently established to assist young people in Windham County who would like to attend programs in performing arts at local institutions, teaching mime, dance, voice, theatre, etc., but whose families may need financial assistance.

The scholarship, IHOP — In Honor of Paul — was created to recognize the life, career and great humanity of Paul Ricci, a resident of Westminster West who died in July. Ricci not only gave great joy to audiences through his dancing and acting but never failed to encourage us all to dance with great grace, innate patience and joy.

Scholarship eligibility follows the financial guidelines used by public schools in determining participation in the federally funded free lunch program; parents should work with their child's school guidance counselor if interested in applying.

To date, IHOP has sponsored two students at the New England Youth Theatre and one at Kelly's Dance Academy, as well as a hip-hop class at the Academy/Green Street summer program.

If more information is needed, parents can call 802-254-7744.

Marlboro College launches 2017 Beautiful Minds Challenge

MARLBORO >> Marlboro College recently announced the launch of its Beautiful Minds Challenge for the 2016-2017 academic year. Inspired high school students are invited to respond to a prompt drawn from Gandhi's well-known admonition — "Be the change. Document the effect" — and compete for scholarships and cash prizes.

"Everyone has the potential to be an agent of positive change," said Kevin Quigley, president of Marlboro. "This year's challenge celebrates the innovation of students working from a personal and local level to a community and global scale. Anything is possible, and we invite students to explore the change they want to see in the world."

The Beautiful Minds Challenge is open to all teens, age 15 to 19 and not yet enrolled in college fulltime. Entries in the form of a creative digital documentation, whether that's words, images, audio, or video, are due by Thursday, Dec. 1. Submissions will be judged by a panel of Marlboro faculty, staff, and students based on their quality, creativity, preparation, and demonstration of original, critical, and innovative thinking.

The top three high school seniors who intend to enroll at Marlboro College in the fall of 2017 will be eligible for a full or partial tuition scholarship, and other students are eligible for cash prizes of up to $1,000. The 25 finalists will be awarded expense-paid trips to the Beautiful Minds Symposium, from March 29 to 31, 2017, where they will share their projects and experience Marlboro College firsthand.

"Beautiful Minds let me connect with people in a way that I don't often get to — not just intellectually but holistically," said Wynne Nuhfer, a finalist last year and now a first year student at Marlboro. "The different perspectives people brought to the prompt were incredible, and the experience of watching the performances was eye-opening."

"The Beautiful Minds Challenge allows students who like to think deeply about ideas, and express their thoughts creatively, to see what a Marlboro learning experience might be like," said Kate Trzaskos, director of community programs and partnerships at Marlboro. "It's an exciting opportunity, and for many of them with diverse intellectual and creative interests, Marlboro is a great fit."

For more information, including a video of the prompt as well as detailed rules, instructions, and prizes, visit

Norwich University joins Private College 529 Plan to help families save

NORTHFIELD >> Norwich University, the nation's oldest private military college and birthplace of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, has joined Private College 529 Plan, a consortium of 284 colleges that guarantees a locked-in tuition rate for prospective students.

College savings and pre-paid tuition plans, called 529 plans, are offered nationwide. Private College 529 Plan enables families to prepay tuition, avoiding future increases in the cost of college or the risk associated with financial market volatility.

"By joining Private College 529 Plan, Norwich is offering just one more way to help families make a private college education more affordable," Vice President for Enrollment Management Greg Matthews said.

This news comes on the heels of another new initiative announced by the school and launched in May 2016 advising that Vermont students seeking majors in science, technology, engineering and math have a chance for an upfront award of $25,000-30,000 for each of their four years at Norwich University.

"Private College 529 Plan has helped families save on the cost of college for over a decade at leading private schools nationwide — research universities, liberal arts colleges, STEM schools, and faith-based institutions," said Nancy Farmer, president of Private College 529 Plan. "We are pleased to welcome Norwich as the first member school to offer a military education option to our account owners and believe it is fitting that they join during September which is widely known as National College Savings Month."

This fall marks the 10 year anniversary of the first account owners who began redeeming tuition from Private College 529 Plan. Since these families led the way, there have been nearly 5,000 redemptions allowing thousands of students to save on the cost of attending private college by prepaying for their higher education through the Plan.

For more information, visit or

VSAC hosts 'paying for college' workshops

BRATTLEBORO >> Changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, are here. Find out what it means for your financial aid plans at a Paying for College workshop, hosted by Vermont Student Assistance Corp.

The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will provide parents and students with information on the new filing dates for the FAFSA and applying for a Vermont State Grant. The FAFSA is the basis for determining eligibility for federal Pell grants, VSAC's Vermont State Grant, financial aid from the school and for student loans. Simply put: no FAFSA, no financial aid.

The presentation, which normally runs about 90 minutes, provides students and their parents with information on ways to consider costs when searching for colleges, types of financial aid and how to apply, how family contribution is calculated, how financial aid is awarded and student and parent loans – including VSAC's Vermont Advantage loans.

Students and parents should sign up for a FSA ID at prior to the workshop. The form takes about 10 minutes to complete and one to three days to verify and issue the ID from Federal Student Aid.

The workshops will be offered at these high schools: Brattleboro Union High School, Oct. 3 and 25; Bellows Falls Union High School, Oct. 6; Vermont Academy, Oct. 14; Twin Valley High School, Oct. 17; and Leland & Gray Union High School, Oct. 20.

If you cannot attend the session at your local high school, consider attending one in at a nearby school. A complete schedule is available at To watch a pre-recorded version, visit

NHCF invests in Kurn Hattin youth

WESTMINSTER >> New England Kurn Hattin Homes recently received an $8,000 grant award from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Ira S. and Gertrude S. Hubbard Memorial Fund.

Since 1894, New England Kurn Hattin Homes has provided a year-round, charitable, home and school for at-risk boys and girls, ages 5 to 15, from across the Northeast. The NHCF Ira S. and Gertrude S. Hubbard Memorial Fund supports Kurn Hattin Homes' initiatives to empower and invest in youth as future agents of change.

"Partnerships of this sort, and especially with the Ira S. and Gertrude S. Hubbard Memorial Fund, are essential for us to continue our work with children to provide up-to-date curriculum materials, opportunities for technology integration, recreational programs, and more," said Steve Harrison, Kurn Hattin's Executive Director. "We could not function without this type of on-going and generous support, and we are extremely grateful for the Hubbard Memorial Fund."

For more information, visit or

Greater Falls Connections Coalition meeting set for Sept. 23

BELLOWS FALLS >> Join Greater Falls Connections for its first coalition meeting of the new school year on Friday, Sept. 23, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Parks Place in Bellows Falls.

At this month's meeting, participants will celebrate the award of a five-year Drug Free Communities grant. Participants will also celebrate National Recovery Month, which is intended to support people in recovery and draw attention to critical prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.

Results are in from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey,which will also be discussed.

Come lend your voice to the coalition's work. Lunch will be provided. Find out more about the work of GFC at The mission of Greater Falls Connections is to connect the community of Windham Northeast by inspiring and empowering people through education and collaboration to promote wellness and prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, with an emphasis on youth substance abuse prevention.

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