E, a rising senior at a supportive Brooklyn private school, had a long history of struggling in a number of academic subjects (including science, writing, math, and history) despite ongoing help at her school’s learning center in addition to private tutoring. She was reluctant to get help from her teachers and had a number of strategies for avoiding responsibility. When pressed, she said she would be able to ramp up her work when she got to college. E’s parents were at a loss for where to go next, feeling that she was “lazy” and not working to her potential. They were also concerned that E had difficulty making and keeping close friendships outside of her greater family.
E began her relationship with Peak Year in a five-week Peak Time Experience intensive in the summer prior to her senior year of high school. At this time, she was feeling discouraged and unmotivated. She had the goal of “just hanging in” when she got to college, though she wanted to attend a large, nationally recognized university program. She was already in the process of applying to college, had an independent advisor, and had been engaged in SAT and ACT prep through her school for a year previously.
It very soon became evident that E had global executive function problems. To work on this issue, her intensive summer experience included integrated executive function mentoring in subjects she already was passionate about: pop music lyric writing and French culture (though by report she had been unsuccessful at French language studies, especially memorizing correct pronouns.) Her program also supplemented this work with executive function infused activities she was willing to try, including drumming, figurative sculpture, Tai Chi and origami.
With less reluctance on her part, E’s work with Peak Year continued part-time after school in the fall of her senior year. Executive functions were integrated into subjects she had not traditionally enjoyed, including mathematics and science, while she continued to explore music, mindfulness and Tai Chi. She showed improvement in her attitude about herself and slowly developed a more realistic view of how difficult the university she hoped to attend would be. E was accepted into several colleges that matched her preferences and she continues working on executive function skills as well as mindfulness and resilience. She is now showing signs of real ability and promise in her pop lyric writing.
D’s experience at his progressive West Coast private high school allowed him to explore learning from many different and creative angles. He was an accomplished artist and a strong academic student who possessed a great capacity for learning. Yet he consistently struggled with executive functions such as organization, time management, and decision-making. In addition, D was often at odds with his parents about his plans for the future and the path he should take. This was causing significant family strife.
During his senior year, as many of his friends were setting their sights on the “perfect college,” D found himself struggling to decide what to do and where to go. This struggle persisted despite encouragement and guidance from his parents, friends, and professional counselors. D actually became one of Peak Year’s first semester-long intensive students when his parents learned of Dr. Rudin launching the program.
Through sculpture, drawing, design thinking, mindfulness, and tango sessions with inspiring mentors, D began to hone his specific passions within the field of art. During this time, he also began his college search, but now it was on his own terms and in his own time. While he was clearly in charge of this pursuit, he counted on his sessions with mentors to help scaffold and support him, even joining him on several college visits. During this time, D was also able to assemble his art portfolio (a requirement for the schools he had chosen), a project he previously could not get off the ground during his senior year despite great attempts to do so.
For B, heading into a college experience was both exciting and daunting. He had long struggled with academic coursework and social relationships in high school, had few connections with peers, and for as long as he could remember needed outside academic support. This was particularly true in the domain of executive function.
B courageously enrolled in his first two college classes and immediately found college level coursework to be a great challenge. He struggled with organizing course materials, using an online platform for assignments and resources, and with figuring out how to study and consolidate massive amounts of information before exams. Faced with these challenges, at the suggestion of his parents B opted to enroll in Peak Time mentoring. With the help of subject-specific Peak Time mentors, he found the ongoing support he needed to succeed in his courses. Weekly tutoring sessions and executive function coaching further enabled him to learn how to navigate these new waters with growing confidence.
With a few college courses under her belt and many credits ahead of her, L felt unsure about how to connect her life interests with her academic coursework. She wanted to engage in a more robust learning experience that could provide guidance while also hone in on her desire to experience more meaningful relationships with peers and colleagues. She often felt alone even when she was with others, and wondered whether taking time off from college coursework would give her space to focus both inwardly and outwardly.
L’s love of languages, computers, and recent travel to India and Japan made her feel like a teaching job in one of these disciplines and countries might be a good fit. Her challenge, however, was confusion about how to set herself on a path to finishing her degree and finding employment. She was on leave when introduced to Peak Year and enrolled in a three-week intensive. Her team of mentors spent time discussing and engaging L’s natural interests, passions and talents. She displayed good executive function in many areas (inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility) but real difficulty initiating and engaging them fully on her own. She also struggled with planning in general, which is a higher order executive function.
Japanese was L’s favorite language and the country and culture she was most passionate about. Her Peak Time program with Sae Okihara included Japanese language and culture with embedded executive function emphasizing initiation and planning. Other areas of work included introductory sessions in emotional intelligence with Dr. Robin Stern, public speaking, Tai Chi, drumming and Executive Function Tango™. The relationships that L formed were one of the most meaningful aspects of her program. She felt understood for the first time and helped by their guidance and encouragement.
On leave from college at this time, L continues her Peak Time experience through distance learning, studying Japanese with embedded executive function and applying to a university with support from her mentoring team. She is currently considering an English tutoring position in Japan though a special program.
N had graduated with honors from a highly competitive, East Coast liberal arts college, where his undergraduate interests ranged from languages and music to political science, with time studying and working in Europe. His passion and plan to reside in Europe and work in political science was not supported by changing European politics. Returning to the US and his family home, he felt a sense of not being in the right place with requisite skills and hoped for happiness—not uncommon for millennials.
N’s Peak Time experience, which was configured flexibly to accommodate his changing work/career obligations, included three integrated prongs:
As N didn’t enjoy life in his family’s home city and remembered fondly his time in Europe, the first prong involved an external exploration of where he might want to live, make a home, and build a career.
The second prong, guided by his mentoring team, involved more internal, focused work on skills and practices for happiness and success, including executive functions, personal resilience, self-compassion, mindfulness and flow. This work included Tai Chi and very basic yoga breathing, with plans for coaching in emotional intelligence in the near future. He also undertook a research project with a member of the Peak Year Emotional Intelligence Advisory Team.
The third prong centered on N’s desire to bring his math writing and problem solving skills to a level appropriate for top-tier business and graduate school applicants. His work in this area included executive function and mindfulness embedded academic studies in both math and writing, along with focused preparation for the GRE.
N’s research, mindfulness practice and Tai Chi continue. He was recently promoted in his current position and offered a significantly more interesting and rewarding job opportunity elsewhere. He achieved very competitive GREs scores and he is currently planning the next steps forward for his graduate education in a livable smaller city.