Peak Performance Prep is excited to announce the launch of our College Pathways Program. Earlier this week, Peak co-founder Jared Small met with Mr. Luis Paez (far left in photo) of St. Ignatius School and seven high school sophomores, each a graduate of St. Ignatius who now attends high school in the New York City area. The purpose of this meeting was for Jared and the students to get to know each other before diving into the SAT prep course that will start after Thanksgiving. Gathered in a St. Ignatius classroom after school, the group projected a mixture of excitement and first-day butterflies as students embark on a multi-year program designed to prepare them for all facets of the college admissions process. While Peak has done a considerable amount of outreach with local communities in the past, this newest pro bono venture introduces at least two new concepts to the Peak approach: 1) a holistic program that will unfold across multiple years; and 2) a partnership with an already-proven team of committed educators and administrators from the St. Ignatius School.
During the course of this preliminary meeting, Jared and the students introduced themselves and asked each other questions. Some were playful--"what’s your favorite comic book?"--and others more serious--"why did we each opt into this extensive and demanding program?" Members of the group discussed their impressions of higher education and the motivations underlying their desire to eventually attend college, which for some students in the room would mark the first time someone in their families would have the opportunity to do so.
As sophomores, these students realize that college is still a bit far off. But nearly all acknowledged that starting the college prep process early will help them feel more confident and prepared. Additionally, the early start to this process allows Peak to extend the program over a three-year period and dissect the steps into discrete, manageable parts. During Year One, the students will focus on mastering the SAT and will get ready to take their first actual SAT in Summer 2019. Year Two will maintain the focus on test prep, while also incorporating resume building, application tips, and college visits. Year Three will mark the culmination of the program, and will hopefully see Peak--in partnership with Mr. Paez in his role as director of the St. Ignatius alumni education program--guide each of the seven students through the remaining portions of the college application process.
Over the course of the next several months, Jared and the students will meet on Wednesday evenings in Hunts Point to dissect the 'ins' and 'outs' of the SAT. Throughout the winter and spring, the group will also gather in Westchester on Saturday mornings for timed practice exams that will help monitor progress. For all involved, the road ahead is an exciting one. It will certainly produce countless learning moments and memories for both teacher and students alike!
Be sure to check back with this blog frequently for updates and student profiles from our College Pathways Program!
Alumni Profile Series: Casi Lumbra
As she sips a cup of tea in the magnificent amphitheater at the Chao Center on the campus of Harvard Business School (HBS), Casi Lumbra reflects on the path she has traveled and the journey she is just embarking upon. A first-year student at HBS, Casi has a plan. It’s a plan born out of hard work, intellectual curiosity, and a penchant for traveling the world in the company of her friends and colleagues.
After spending three years climbing the ladder as a consultant at Bain & Company in San Francisco, Casi is nearly halfway through a two-year hiatus from the job she loves to
re-immerse herself in the world of academia. She spends her mornings acing cold-calls from the world’s most renowned business professors, afternoons preparing for the next day’s cases, and evenings socializing with the next generation of corporate leaders and entrepreneurs.
But for Casi, the business school experience is about much more than what she experiences on campus. Two weeks ago, Casi trekked with 200 of her classmates to Colombia to dine with President Juan Manuel Santos. Over the next two months, Casi will spend a fortnight in South Africa working with a growing ed tech company, visit the “world’s most beautiful beach” in Mozambique upon the invitation of a classmate, and make her first trip to Israel alongside dozens of other HBS students. And she’s got a pretty cool summer internship in the works that can’t yet be broadcasted publicly!
Long before her days studying mechanical engineering at Stanford or managing her HBS section’s budget as elected treasurer, Casi was a member of the Peak Performance Class of 2009. She set a high standard for her test preparation by attending nearly every practice exam we offered and rigorously studying vocabulary words in an era when esoteric words were often the bane of a high school student’s existence. The master of her own schedule, Casi arranged all of her lessons directly with her tutors. By taking ownership of the process, she set a remarkably high bar for herself. Not surprisingly, she achieved perfection on the exam. But Casi’s Peak Performance experience did not end when she attained a 2400. For the next two years, she worked at Peak as a data analyst, exam proctor, and associate tutor.
Once Casi takes her final sip of tea, it’s back to study mode. Energized by the animated conversations and discourse that surround her, she decides to make the amphitheater her “study home” for the next two or three hours. Anyone who has known Casi since her high school days—which included a stint as an advisory board member for MTV’s ‘A Thin Line’ campaign to help teens stop the spread of digital abuse—knows that Casi is on a journey towards something special.
When asked about the most important factors that allowed her to embark on a career path she loves, Casi doesn’t hesitate to mention Peak Performance and the skills she learned as a student and colleague. “So much of what I need to be successful today, I started learning in high school,” she says. “Quick, logical thinking is helping me navigate the HBS curriculum. Concise, persuasive communication helps make me an effective consultant.”
Masters of the Sentence
Jared Small, Co-Founder and Director of Programming
Common Core Standards encourage educators to help their students become more effective writers across a variety of disciplines. This is a worthy and important aspiration. But few of us would expect a student to conceptualize advanced algebra before he can add. And few would ask a student to speak fluent Spanish before she acquired a certain base vocabulary. By this same logic, we do our students a disservice when we assign them to master the art of composition before we have taught them to master the art of composing a sentence.
At Peak, we specialize in teaching our students to become masters of the sentence. Our LAP Method (Learn-Apply-Practice) serves as a pedagogical bridge between the uniform expectations adopted by the Common Core, SAT, and ACT, and the less consistent commitment to teaching the fundamentals of grammar in many 21st century American classrooms. LAP encapsulates a three-phased approach to teaching grammar that enables students to become significantly more fluent writers and editors.
Learn. Both the SAT and ACT test well-defined rules of grammar that have existed for decades, even centuries. We teach our students to identify subjects, verbs, and adjectives; to recognize fundamental parts of sentences; and to understand the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, a dependent clause and an independent clause. Before our students hone in on the questions that are specific to the SAT or ACT, they learn to speak and understand the language of grammar.
Apply. Once a student acquires the requisite grammar base, she is ready to begin applying this content to exam-specific questions. Rather than following her hunch or letting her ear guide her, she reaches into her newly acquired rule-bank. Glancing at a clause that reads, “Each of the doctors have their own talents,” she is now able to recognize that the singular antecedent Each requires a singular possessive pronoun (his, her, or his or her) rather than the plural possessive pronoun their. Confronted with a clause that he may very well have heard countless times in his life—“I don’t like you talking to me like that”—he now applies the rule that the possessive form of you must precede the gerund talking. Thus, the sentence properly reads, “I don’t like your talking to me like that.” Our Director of Grammar Instruction, Terry McKeown, presents students with purposefully designed practice sets that allow students to apply these rules.
Practice. Once our students learn the rules of grammar and begin to apply these rules to SAT- or ACT-specific questions, they then have ample opportunity to practice. By completing weekly practice sets and participating in our proctored practice exam series, our students continue their journey towards becoming masters of the sentence. At the same time, they become much better equipped to engage in higher-level writing and editing.
To be clear, the Learn-Apply-Practice method is not a linear process. It is a continuous loop that requires both a diligent student and, in our case, a team of dedicated tutors. If, for example, a practice exam reveals that a student is not yet able to operationalize the rules he has learned about Subject-Verb agreement, we return to the ‘Learn’ phase to clarify the rule and to the ‘Apply’ phase to allow that rule to crystallize in the student’s mind. Once we circle back to the ‘Practice’ phase, we can again assess whether the student has mastered Subject-Verb agreement.
Ultimately, all educators want their students to read, write, and think at the highest levels. At Peak, we use the LAP method to bridge the gap between the current state of grammar education and the aspirations for literacy that we have for all our students. Not only does this methodology equip our students to ace the grammar portions of their college entrance exams, but also it gives them the confidence and skill-set to undertake more ambitious academic endeavors. As masters of the sentence, Peak students score higher and climb farther.