Research indicates that teens are more likely to go to their peers when looking for information about sensitive subjects like sexual involvement, substance abuse, or peer pressure than they are to go to adults.
The Peer Education program is a teen pregnancy prevention and school completion program that has been in operation since 1991. The program is currently active in seven area schools. There are two parts to the Peer Education program; (1) Lifeskills and (2) Peer Helpers.
Lifeskills is a 10 - 12 week program that teaches students about various asset-building behaviors, such as decision-making, self-esteem enhancement, effective communication, and alcohol and drug prevention. Lifeskills students are self-selected or recommended by a teacher. Lifeskills is generally taught at the sixth grade level in our middle schools and in the ninth grade at participating high schools.
After students complete the Lifeskills program they have the opportunity to apply to be Peer Helpers. Applying for Peer Helpers is just like applying for a job. Students are required to fill out an application, sit for an interview, and receive a recommendation from an adult at school. There are also academic and behavioral standards that students must agree to before becoming Peer Helpers. If these expectations are not met, a Peer Helper can be put on probation or dismissed from the program.
Every year more than 1,000 students complete the Lifeskills program. There are approximately 200 students currently involved in the Peer Helper program.
(2) Peer Helpers:
Peer Helpers use communication and active listening skills to encourage self-exploration and responsible decision-making among themselves and their peers.
Students accepted into the Peer Helper program go through a year-long training. At this time they learn about listening and communication skills, how to make referrals, problem-solving techniques and other information that will assist them in their role as a Peer Helper. The following years they continue to be trained in more specific behavior-related areas and are finally able to work in the Resource Room. The Peer Education Staff uses science-based curricula that the CDC has recommended as Programs That Work' to teach the Peer Helpers.
The Resource Room is a place where all students can come to get information, brochures, referrals, and help with problems. One thing that is not provided in the Resource Room is advice. Though students do help problem-solve, Peer Helpers are there to guide students, not tell them what to do. Visitors to the Resource Room are empowered to make their own decisions, even if they need a little help, and to be responsible for the outcomes.
Everything discussed in the Resource Room is confidential. A member of the Planned Parenthood staff is always there in case someone comes in with a serious problem. Anything that seems harmful to the student or someone else or anything illegal is considered a "red light problem" and must be brought to the attention of the Planned Parenthood staff member. The Peer Helpers have been trained to identify these issues. The school liaison is also informed about all red light problems.
The Peer Helper program is designed to have additional benefits for the Peer Helpers:
- Being a Peer Helper is often the student's first job experience. Peer Helpers gain experience going through the job application process. They are also held accountable for their work by their "supervisor" and receive periodic performance appraisals, as well as a small stipend that is dependent upon their hard work in the program.
- Peer Helpers have the opportunity to be actively involved in creating a healthier school environment. This instills in them feelings of competence, confidence, belonging, and responsibility.
- Peer Helpers have reported that their training helped them become more effective communicators within their personal lives. As a result they experience less hostility, frustration, and stress.
- Students are required to participate in at least one community service program during each year they participate in the program. This gives them an increased sense of community involvement, as well as an accomplishment for which they can be proud.
- Students have the opportunity to enjoy the region's cultural resources through yearly field trips.
For more information on the Peer Education program, call the Peer Education Coordinator at 412.434.8957 x 124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.