PERU - Students in the Peru Central School District are some of only a handful of schools in the North Country taking advantage of a partnership with a program known as College for Every Student.
Earlier this week, the school district hosted its annual kick-off for its participation in CFES, a program based in Cornwall, Vt., which encourages students to pursue higher education after completing high school.
Physical education teacher Natalie Schaefer, who serves as the CFES liaison for Peru High School, said the school has been involved with the program for the past three years, and has grown exponentially in such a short amount of time.
"This year, it has just exploded," she said.
Schaefer explained she bases that on involvement of more students in the mentoring aspect of the program in which older students take time to meet with younger students. The older students serve as role models, meeting at least once a week with their mentees, though many have taken it upon themselves to go the extra mile.
"Some meet with their mentees even more," she said, adding the number of mentors matched with mentees has increased this year from six to 50. "Our goal is for these mentees to become mentors one day themselves."
Schaefer said its her hope by getting the mentors and mentees involved with community service projects - which is another aspect of the program - will help accomplish that. Projects like creating stained glass ornaments for senior citizens in nursing homes during the holidays and cleaning up roadways and parks helps instill a sense of community in students and also helps interest grow in the program by showing what good participants are doing in their communities.
"My list keeps growing and have students asking me every week if they can mentor," said Schaefer, "They want to help and I'm more than happy to have them help."
"We just help out with every little project we can," said senior Shelby Purdy. "It's really rewarding to know we've actually made a difference. And, to see the reaction of other people to what we've done, it makes it even better."
Purdy has been involved with the program at Peru High School since its inception and has mentored a young girl for the past two years, helping her through the transition from middle school to high school.
"It can be hard, it can be scary," Purdy said of entering high school, "but with someone there for her it seemed to make it easier for her."
The other aspect of the CFES program Purdy said she enjoys is the emphasis on getting students introduced to colleges as soon as possible. Already, Purdy has joined her fellow students in the program for tours of Clinton Community College and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. The campus tours have helped her reaffirm her desire to be a registered nurse - now it's just choosing which college she will attend.
"It was really nice that we could take the tours through the school [arranging them]," said Purdy. "Instead of having to miss school for college visits, it's the school that's taking you. It's more comfortable in that setting."
CFES program director Steve Boyce, who met with the students during the kick-off celebration, said he was glad to continue the program's partnership with the Peru school district.
"There's so much misinformation about college," said Boyce, "especially for parents who might be the first in their family to consider going to college, and that's one of the things we really work on. We want them to understand financial aid and to get the kids to visit enough colleges to see the choices that are out there - some which are a lot cheaper than others."
"We want them to be successful in college, and kids who see themselves as leaders are more likely to be successful in college," he added.
For more information about CFES, visit the organization's Web site at www.collegefes.org.