Sophomores Kathryn McAuliffe and Maddy Truka empower others through Peerlift


Jess and Jenn Photography

Posing with a bok choy, Webster Groves freshman Bree Tokraks and sophomore Kathryn McAuliffe relish in their inside jokes from Kode with Klossy, a free two-week summer camp designed to empower teen girls interested in coding. McAuliffe discovered the program through Peerlift, an organization that strives to help prepare high school students for the future. “I’d like to do Kode with Klossy next year, and I will apply for sure, but there are a couple of other opportunities I’m more interested in. I don’t even know what those opportunities might be, but I’d like to do something more in my interests with journalism or activism,” McAuliffe said.

While most high school students look forward to the awaited spring break trip and forgetting about school, sophomore Kathryn McAuliffe used this time to further her preparation for college. While touring colleges with her older brother, McAuliffe realized the numerous, undiscovered opportunities to get involved and build her résumé, prompting her to become involved with Peerlift.

Peerlift, a student-run, nonprofit organization, offers various opportunities for students to gain easier access to higher education. Founded by two Coca-Cola scholars, Peerlift aims to offer scholarships, summer camps, internships and other resources to help students stand out among other college applicants.

“Peerlift is 100 percent student-run by individuals who are all passionate about making education accessible for all. Peerlift aims to help traditionally disadvantaged groups and all students by gathering all sorts of opportunities into one place,” McAuliffe said.

Immediately after discovering the organization, McAuliffe felt drawn by the need to join the staff as a worker and help spread Peerlift’s impact to a broader audience. She filled out an application in March and was accepted in April. Applications can be a tedious process; however, McAuliffe found herself drawn to Peerlift’s mission.

“When I went through the application process, the people I spoke with and how passionate they all were truly sold me; they cared so much about education that it made me care more,” McAuliffe said. “I was amazed that people didn’t know about this and that no one had thought of it sooner.”

McAuliffe initially worked as a student ambassador, helping to advertise the program. Finding Instagram to be a great source of marketing, McAuliffe began working with Peerlift’s Director of Marketing Julie Chen to build a social media platform and encouraged sophomore Maddy Truka to also help out with the Instagram

“I think [Peerlift] is very important for people who may not have access to school counselors or extracurricular activities. This can be another tool [for college],” Truka said. “I also just wanted to take a leap and do something that affected the community that wasn’t through the school.”

In addition to helping others through Peerlift, McAuliffe also utilized its services to get out of her comfort zone and try new activities, such as Kode with Klossy.

“I spent two weeks over the summer in a computer science and coding program for teen girls all across the nation. I learned how to code, met some of the coolest girls and was in a photoshoot for Vogue [with supermodel Karlie Kloss] all because of Kode with Klossy,” McAuliffe said.

Only having been operated for just over a year, Peerlift is looking to grow its following and its impact on high school students nationwide. McAuliffe and Truka both plan to continue working for Peerlift as an advocate for making higher education obtainable for all.  

“When I saw the power that Peerlift had, I immediately was drawn to their mission. Being a part of something ran by such high-achieving students had pushed me to do better,” McAuliffe said. “The reality is that college is tough to get into and it’s difficult to afford. Peerlift really spoke to making those two things easier.”