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In 2012, the TMA Chicago/Midwest Scholarship Foundation began awarding a need-based scholarship to a local high school or non-profit organization. The school or organization is selected from recommendations received from TMA Members.  The scholarship is awarded to a deserving student (or students) from the school or organization and is used for post high school education (including trade and professional schools).  In 2013, PEAK was the recipient of the Foundation’s scholarship.  The following article provides information about PEAK and how its students have benefited from the Scholarship Foundation.

COMMUNITY PROFILE:  PEAK: Partnership to Educate and Advance Kids

By Nick Miller, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP

Imagine for a moment:  You grow up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. Your parents are working two jobs, maybe three just to pay the rent and put food on the table. You don’t see them around the house much. To get to school every day, you take a route far out of your way to avoid the gangs and other criminal activity down the street. You do just enough in school to get by, even though you know you could do much better. It’s time to go to high school, and your next step is the notoriously dangerous neighborhood school.  

Enter PEAK, the Partnership to Educate and Advance Kids, which the TMA and several of its members have, in one form or another, supported for years. 

For the past 19 years, PEAK has focused on kids just like the one described above, drawing predominantly from the West and South side neighborhoods with a mission to get these students to high school graduation. How does PEAK do it? Through a powerful combination of access to a quality education in a safe environment (a full scholarship to attend Wicker Park's Holy Trinity High School) and a deep connection with an adult mentor who works with the student for their entire four-year high school career. 

Unlike other scholarship organizations, PEAK does not focus on the highest achievers from these neighborhoods. Instead, PEAK targets kids who join the program with only average academic credentials. By identifying students who show a willingness to excel, even if their marks don’t show it, PEAK Scholars flourish in the program. Research has shown that if at least one adult takes interest in a young person’s progress, their chance of breaking the cycle of poverty increases dramatically. PEAK provides that opportunity, with a clear message to each scholar that they are smart, capable and deserving. 

The numbers show the impact. Each student entering the program is at extremely high risk of falling in with the wrong crowd and dropping out of school.  But with PEAK’s support—financial, educational, and motivational—nearly 80 percent of PEAK students finish high school with a solid foundation for the next step, whether continuing onto college, vocational school or other productive paths. While the program’s objective has always been to get PEAK Scholars through high school, 100 percent of PEAK graduates have been accepted into college since 2006.

In 2013, Holy Trinity High School was awarded a $3,000 grant from the TMA Chicago/Midwest Scholarship Foundation, which was used to support college tuition for three PEAK graduates. Current TMA members, Craig Dean or AEG Partners and Nick Miller of Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, sit on PEAK’s board of directors, and numerous TMA members and a number of TMA member firms are financial sponsors of the program. According to Craig Dean, “This is exactly the type of support that has a tangible impact, directly changing the lives of every student PEAK touches while helping the greater Chicago community at the same time.”   

The number of kids needing PEAK’s help is significant. If you're interested in getting involved, please contact Craig Dean at 312-948-5605 or Nick Miller at 312-269-5654. Or, for more information, please visit www.peakchicago.org.