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Peak Wins 2nd Consecutive Purple Star Award for Dedication to Military Students and Families

Peak Charter Academy has earned the Purple Star Award from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) for the second consecutive year. The award is given to schools that demonstrate military-friendly practices and a commitment to military students and families.
Peak is one of five charter schools in North Carolina that earned the award. Peak Principal Steve Pond said much of that credit goes to Neely Mariee, an Exceptional Children/Case Manager for K-4th grades and Lieutenant Colonel in the North Carolina Army Reserves.
“I truly appreciate Ms. Mariee's service and her willingness to lead this initiative at Peak,” Pond said. “It is an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to support students and families who have dedicated their lives to serving our country through their military service.”
Mariee joined the Army in 1998 and was in both the Florida and North Carolina National Guard. After leaving active duty, she struggled to make the transition back to civilian life and found herself substitute teaching at her children’s school — Peak Charter Academy.
“My kids endured quite a few ups and downs with me (being in the military),” Mariee said. “I clearly remember thinking ‘I wish my kids had friends like them’ or some kind of outlet where they knew they were not alone in what we were going through. I just thought how incredible it would it be if they could connect and feel a part of a peer group with kids with similar experiences.”
She began subbing at Peak in 2018 to keep an eye on her kids and quickly realized she had found her new purpose.
“There is no doubt I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am so very proud to call myself an educator.”
This led Mariee to head up Peak Charter’s Purple Star Pirates (PSP). Their mission statement is as follows: To ensure all identified “Purple Star Pirates” are provided with peer support and a connection to the resources they may need for the educational and social-emotional challenges they may face while enrolled as a Peak scholar.
“There is a very real intersection between these two populations (military/ K-12 schools) that I have been fortunate to see from many different sides now,” Mariee said. “I joined at 17 because I knew I needed to do something more productive than what I was. It didn’t take long to realize the Army had given me purpose and ‘going to work’ meant something much bigger than I had known. Being able to say I am a Service-Member/ Veteran naturally comes with so much pride, it shines through all you do.”

It's clear Mariee invests that pride in all she does at Peak.
About Peak Charter Academy
Peak Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Apex, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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