A new program at Peak Education empowers students to confront community challenges
This article was featured in Peak Education's Spring 2021 Newsletter
In a year when schools, businesses, and nonprofits have been forced to fundamentally change how they operate and provide services, Peak Education has launched the Impact Service Project to connect the insights and talents of young people in the Peak Education program with local organizations affected by the pandemic.
Comprised of five student teams each paired with a community partner and supported by a coach, the project set out at the beginning of 2021 to effect positive change in Colorado Springs. With funding from a grant from L3Harris Technologies, each team has about $2,000 to implement a solution to a problem their partner organization is facing.
Serving a variety of community needs, the partner organizations are Carmel Middle School, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Career Center, start-up bakery Saratonin Sweets, a community resource hub titled the Fountain-Chelton Partnership, and a thrift store run by the nonprofit Silver Key Senior Services.
“I know that I am making an impact,” says Bailey Baskin, a seventh-grade student at North Middle School and a member of the Silver Key student team. With input from the Silver Key staff, Baily’s team has been researching and planning ways to drive more customers to the thrift store.
Bailey Baskin (center-right) and her siblings Luc (right) and Kylie (center-left) with Jennifer Weams (left) from Sliver Key
From tracking store traffic to developing shopper incentives to crafting social media posts, these Peak Education students are bringing a new viewpoint to a longstanding organization with a mission to support and empower seniors.
“We’re trying to bring a younger perspective onto Silver Key’s social media” says Etelin Tapia, a junior at Harrison High School and project team member. She explains that thrifting has become trendy amongst her generation, adding that the environmental friendliness of second-hand shopping is becoming more important as well.
The service project is designed not only to give students hands-on service experience but also to support organizations impacted by COVID-19.
Silver Key Friends Thrift Store, like many brick and mortar businesses, was hit hard by the pandemic. During the peak of the mandated business closures, “retail sales at Silver Key’s Friends Thrift Store were reduced nearly in half. Where we normally generate $100,000-$120,000 in annual sales, we were just over $50,000 last year due to COVID,” according to an email from Roxanne Eflin, senior manager of grants and innovation at Silver Key.
With the support of their Impact Service Project team, Silver Key is hoping for “long-lasting improvements in our thrift store operations and generated sales,” says Eflin.
And Silver Key is not alone. Each partner organization has been in communication with their respective team and is hoping to benefit from the work and perspective that young people bring to the table. The five teams have submitted proposals to their partner organizations and are now beginning to implement solutions and track outcomes. Teams will execute their plans by the end of May and present their results over the summer.
“I’m seeing students excited about having this impact and being involved in a project that’s really changing the community” says Lauren Taylor, Project Organizer and Assistant Program Director at Peak Education. She is confident that students will come away from the project with new skills in communication and project management as well as an experience that will make them more competitive college applicants.
While still too early to quantify all the results of the Impact Service Project, participants and partners are excited by what has been done and are hopeful about the future.
“We are optimistic and hopeful that this student-led project will meet the goals they have articulated—plus more!” says Roxanne Eflin.
“I know a lot of adults sometimes think, ‘They’re still kids; what are they going to do?’ But if we’re given the right resources and the right support from the adults and other people in the community, I know a lot of us have the potential to accomplish great things.”
-Etelin Tapia, Harrison HS Student
“We've made a lot of progress over the last several months,” says Kayleigh Hudson, the Silver Key team’s volunteer coach. “It's been exciting to see the students rise up to the challenge of helping a real business that's been impacted by COVID.”
If all goes well, the Impact Service Project could become a lasting part of the Peak Education program and a model for projects of its kind.
“I think this project is going to really help set a new standard for high school students and middle school students,” says Etelin Tapia. “I know a lot of adults sometimes think, ‘They’re still kids; what are they going to do?’ But if we’re given the right resources and the right support from the adults and other people in the community, I know a lot of us have the potential to accomplish great things.”