Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PEAK Site Visit

Today I had the opportunity to visit an impressive program located at Holy Trinity High School called The Partnership to Educate & Advance Kids (PEAK). PEAK’s mission is to provide opportunities for at-risk youth to achieve academic and personal success through quality, values based education and the guidance of caring adult mentors.

PEAK provides scholarships that enable students to attend the highly regarded
Holy Trinity High School who would not otherwise be able to attend. These scholarships are made possible through “sponsors”—individuals, families, or churches—who commit to paying four years of tuition for a particular student provided that the student fulfills program expectations. Of approximately 400 students at Holy Trinity, 50 are PEAK students.

The PEAK program focuses on serving students who are low-income and/or academically average or below average. While there are a variety of scholarship opportunities for students who excel in their studies, academically average and below average students are often an under-served population when it comes to scholarships. As Tyrina Newkirk, PEAK Program Coordinator, told me when I met with her today, the program believes that struggling students can be successful and graduate given smaller classes, adult mentors, and tutoring.

Beyond just providing financial support enabling students to attend the private high school, PEAK provides each student with a mentor. Each mentor commits to being a role model and significant part of the student’s life for the duration of his or her high school career. Mentors spend at least four hours a month with their students through a variety of activities based around shared interests of the mentors and mentees. Tyrina listed a range of activities the pairs do together—getting manicures, going to museums or libraries, fishing, even visiting a haunted house (several pairs are going this weekend for Halloween!).

Mentors are also in close communication with how their students are doing inside the classroom. Each week, students must fill out evaluation forms that list their progress in each class. Mentors receive a copy of these reports as a way to check in with students and support them academically.

In addition to support through mentors, PEAK students also have after-school tutoring sessions each day (which they can opt out of if their grades are high enough). These sessions provide homework help while also training students to build study-time into their daily routines.

I was impressed with how PEAK recognizes that helping a student through school requires a variety of components: financial support for programs, quality education, adult role models, academic support, parental involvement, and student commitment. I don’t know if all of these components always receive equal attention in the ways that people discuss the drop-out crisis in America. I encourage you to read Dan Bassill's blog article and then chime in your opinion on this forum on the T/MC NING page.

It was great to learn more about PEAK today and about what the program does to help youth both succeed and thrive in high school.

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