Menlo Park resident Charles Schmuck, whose nonprofit Peninsula College Fund has helped nearly 100 local young adults become the first in their families to not just enroll in but also graduate from a four-year college, will be honored with an Angel Award on Thursday from the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto.
The recognition is given to "an individual who has had a significant, positive impact on children and youth," and the award comes with a $1,500 contribution to the recipient's organization, according to a Kiwanis Club press release.
Schmuck, a retired advertising executive who is now a high school teacher in San Jose, founded Peninsula College Fund in 2005 after becoming troubled by college drop-out rates among local youth from low-income families. The organization works to empower these first-generation college students in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to graduate and obtain a job that aligns with their career goals. Programs include four-year college scholarships, one-to-one mentoring, college and career success training, and summer internships.
The first year, the organization served three young women. Today, 250 are helped annually, with nearly 94 percent of students having either graduated or being on track to graduate from a four-year college. Nationwide, only 11 percent of first-generation students attending four-year colleges graduate in six years, according to the press release.
Peninsula College Fund has rapidly expanded in the last several years, and this year it awarded a record 55 college scholarships to students from 19 partner high schools in Atherton, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Mateo, Belmont and east San Jose.
"The organization has gotten so much bigger than I ever dreamed," he told the Almanac of Menlo Park (the Palo Alto Weekly's sister newspaper) at the nonprofit's 10th anniversary in 2015. Today, Schmuck serves as the co-chair of the organization's board of directors.
The Kiwanis Angel Award reception will be held on Thursday, Oct. 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Sheraton Palo Alto Hotel, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. Retired Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns will host the event.
Funds raised by the Angel Award event through sponsorships and tickets will support the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto's community service projects, grants and scholarships, benefiting institutions working with children, youth and families in the Palo Alto area.
Students who've participated in the Peninsula College Fund programs paid tribute to the organization's work in the Kiwanis press release.
Marisol G., a 2010 University of California, Santa Cruz graduate, called it "a truly phenomenal organization."
"PCF has pushed me to my limits in order to better myself," she said.
Another student, Keneisha P. said: "Every year, PCF brings professionals to practice mock interviews, they provide networks for summer internships, and they have a great mentoring program. This is an amazing organization that has helped many students, including myself, continue their education and develop into the great leaders of tomorrow."
Tickets are $55 and can be ordered online at kiwanisangelaward.org. The Palo Alto Weekly is a media sponsor for the Kiwanis Angel Awards.