PERU - Students at one North Country school are believed to be on paths to brighter futures thanks to their involvement in a forward-thinking program.
Peru High School is among five schools receiving recognition from College For Every Student, a national nonprofit organization that helps connect students with colleges and universities and teaches them the tools they need to be successful after high school. The school, led by principal Chris Mazzella, has earned the title of a "School of Distinction," for making "significant strides in preparing their students for college."
"This is a wonderful thing," Mazzella said of the recognition. "The credit really goes to the team of teachers who participated and worked with our students. It shows their commitment to helping kids."
Physical education teacher Natalie Schaefer, who serves as the school's CFES liaison, was also pleased with the School of Distinction award, calling it "quite an honor because a limited amount of schools receive it." The school's interaction with students for the past four years - which has involved promoting financial aid awareness, educating students on the college application process and involving them in peer mentoring - has given great insight to the world of higher education, said Schaefer.
"The response from the students has been fantastic," she said. "I can't tell you how many students who have said they never wanted to go to college are now excited about going to college."
Students involved with CFES, which reached more than 50 last year at Peru High School, were also able to tour campuses of Clinton Community College and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. That kind of close-up look at institutions of higher learning was something Schaefer said was invaluable.
The added benefit is students participating in the program have had higher grade point averages, more positive attitudes towards school and increased civic engagement.
"It's just been a wonderful program to have instilled within the school," said Schaefer.
"It's great for our kids," added Mazzella. "It helps give them the best opportunity to be successful in high school and in college."
Peru High School was joined in School of Distinction recognition locally by Keeseville Elementary School, Willsboro Central School, Crown Point Central School and Ticonderoga Middle School for meeting academic goals during the 2009-10 school year. Only 14 schools overall were recognized nationwide.