PEAK focuses on providing support for the youth in our program through two mechanisms: scholarship opportunities and mentoring services. The mission of PEAK is to provide opportunities for at-risk youth to achieve academic and personal success through a quality, values-based education and the guidance of caring adult mentors.
Students in our program are at-risk for dropping out of high school, for repeating the cycle of poverty, and for getting involved in violent and/or drug activity. We assist these youth in achieving a quality high school education through scholarship opportunities and the guidance of adult mentors. We seek to enable our students to compete more successfully for employment, to be better qualified for higher education, to achieve greater personal fulfillment, and ultimately to contribute productively to society. Our purpose is to foster hope and break the cycle of poverty and frustration that limits many youth in our society.
PEAK provides full scholarships for at-risk Chicago youth to attend Holy Trinity Catholic high school for four years and mentoring services to help teach them responsibility, discipline, and proper social and leadership skills. Mentors are volunteers from within the community who commit to mentoring a student for the entire four years that they are in high school. Financial sponsors also commit to provide the tuition for a student for the student's four years of high school. A volunteer may serve as a financial sponsor and a mentor or, in some cases, a financial sponsor provides tuition support while a seperate volunteer provides the mentoring support.
Our students are predominantly from single parent, low-income families and consequently at risk for repeating the cycle of poverty. We provide a “hand up,” not a “hand out,” as parents are required to contribute $600 a year toward their child’s school expenses.
The overall goal is for each PEAK student to achieve a quality education, high school graduation and the skills needed to pursue a successful career and a promising future by going on to higher education, a skill trade, or gainful employment.
PEAK views graduation from high school as the foundation of youth advancement into young adulthood.
To date, nearly 80% of the students who enter our program as freshmen remain in the program and earn their high school diplomas. Both PEAK and Holy Trinity High School have experienced 100% college acceptance rates for our graduating classes since 2006.
Like most big cities, Chicago faces significant challenges educating its poorest youth. Often, a lack of support at home makes it difficult for students to reach their fullest potential. By placing at-risk youth in a non-public high school, PEAK offers them a smaller community where they receive more individual attention and the additional safety net of caring, concerned, involved sponsors/mentors who closely monitor the students’ academic progress.
PEAK chooses to serve the academically average to below average (C to D) youth because they are at greater risk of dropping out of high school and they often have few, if any, scholarship opportunities for a quality education because they do not qualify academically for other programs that serve higher performing students.
Our student population is diverse, as reflected in the student demographics: PEAK’s students represent over 20 different public and private grade schools on Chicago’s near west and southwest sides; Gender: 60% male & 40% female; All students are 14-18 years of age; 50% African American & 50% Hispanic; Household: 73% live with a single parent or guardian and the average household income is approximately $23,000 a year. Students reside in near west and southwest neighborhoods of Chicago, including West Town, Humboldt Park, United Center, Little Village, & Lawndale. Their Sponsors/Mentors reside throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.
The Partnership to Educate & Advance Kids (PEAK) was founded in 1997 by Notre Dame alumnae Eileen Cavanaugh Bender and Maria Madigan Kelly. PEAK was modeled after a New York program, Student Sponsor Partners, which both Bender and Kelly had been involved. Published in Notre Dame Magazine, “PEAK Performance” offers a historical look at how PEAK was established and why there was a need for such a program in Chicago. The article is a powerful piece capturing the true life struggles of youth involved in PEAK and how those struggles can either provide the motivational basis for student success or impede it in the program.