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New PEAK Mentors Pioneer Socially Distanced Approach

From day one of this summer's weeklong PEAK freshman scholar orientation, it was clear the 2020-’21 freshmen would make lemonade from lemons as they navigate this historic year.

Twin sisters Precious and Priska were really looking forward to experiencing all Holy Trinity High School has to offer. They craved academic challenge. They were eager to expand their comfort zones by trying new activities (from badminton to public speaking) with the support of their PEAK mentors.

The sisters are driven by their desire to give back. They want to make the world a better place, and they have a plan. Both dream of going into medicine to help those without access to adequate healthcare. They are big readers of the classics and are highly thoughtful, bright and hardworking. But like most PEAK scholars, their low scores on their high-school entrance exams limited their school options.

This fall might not feel quite like the start to high school the girls had long envisioned - but with the support of their PEAK mentors, they’re adjusting and finding surprising ways to turn their hopes and goals into realities.

The transition to high school this year wasn’t always smooth or easy. Like many low-income students throughout the city this year, Priska and Precious often had trouble finding a quiet space at home to study. They struggled to get into healthy remote-learning routines and often found themselves highly stressed. “It’s hard to ask for help on screen,” said Precious, “when the teachers have many students to support.”

Mentors Jennifer Reilly and Kathryn Rosenbaum sprang into action, working with PEAK Program Manager Alexis Armfield to identify possible solutions.

Recognizing that the sisters were finding at-home isolation particularly demoralizing and anxiety-producing, the mentors encouraged the twins to shift to a hybrid learning model, coming into school two days each week. The change was immediate. “Now that they are in the building, they really feel that they are in high school,” Alexis explained.

Outside of school, Jennifer and Kathryn reached out to another freshman mentor, Alyssa Saklak, to organize a painting get-together (taking good care to wear masks and keep some distance, of course) with Priska, Precious and Alyssa’s PEAK scholar, Tahari. This provided a very rare opportunity for the girls to socialize with one of their classmates in person this year.

The girls are thriving in their second quarter. Precious is loving learning about world geography, while Priska’s favorite part of high school so far is ceramics. “Being able to do new projects and experiment with the clay is fun,” Priska said.

Their PEAK mentors played a big role in boosting the twins’ involvement and enthusiasm. Without these budding one-on-one mentoring relationships the girls might have remained isolated at home, never seeking out the support they needed. Both girls are eagerly looking forward to more easily spending time with their mentors when the pandemic abates. “If I’m down, she gives me advice and encouragement and it makes my day,” Priska said. “She motivates me and makes me want to do more.”

The twins see and consider all the world’s problems and dream of a better future. “God created us to love our neighbors and our enemies,” they said. “It’s sad that people use violence and hatred for their benefit. We hope the world becomes a better place for all people.”

We are living through dark times - but we know that with their family, their mentors, their school, and their PEAK community behind them, Priska and Precious will make themselves a part of that change for the better.


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