Peer Support prepares for school outreach, conflict mediation


Photo credit: Eloise Rollins-Fife

Seventh grade students congregate in hallway. The seventh grade is one of the classes that Peer Support focuses attention on in their presentations.

Whether they’re educating the Middle School on compassionate conduct, counseling students one-on-one or mediating conflicts, Archer’s Peer Support Leaders are constantly looking for ways to connect with and guide the community.

The group meets on Tuesdays at X-block to plan educational events and discuss strategies to better aid the student body. Members of the program include seniors Billie Wakham, Valentina Pinari, Anabella Ronson-Benatati, Sophie Smyth and Halle Jacobs, and juniors Ester Dafoe, Alexa Kretchmer, Saskia Wong-Smith, Sara Newman and Macoy Olbaum.

“I think peer support is a great way of helping the community out, whether it’s creating presentations to educate the middle school students, or just working with them to help resolve issues,” Pianiri said.

Some of the members were inspired by their predecessors, who they credit with sparking their interest in Peer Support back when they were in Middle School.

“I remember when I was in seventh and eighth grade and the juniors and seniors did the ‘How Rude’ presentations for us. I really looked up to them and I wanted to be them, so that’s why I’m here now,” Jacobs said.

Others said that the lack of a Peer Support-like program in their middle schools drove them to join in high school.

“I know that when I was in middle school, I didn’t really have this opportunity — and middle school was a tough time, and I wasn’t able to have people like this,” Olbaum said. “Now that I have the opportunity to help people like the middle schoolers. I think that’s really important.”

Wakeham echoed this statement.

“I know when I was in middle school, if I had known that there was somebody whose job and responsibility was to talk to me and help me sort of dig through my mind and declutter it, I would have been really appreciative, and it probably would have helped me a lot,” she said.

According to their mission statement, Peer Support “aims to educate and increase students’ ability to deal effectively with issues of social diversity, personal conflicts and learning honest, caring communication.”

Rather than solving students’ problems for them, student leaders offer guidance and mediation to those who request it.

“I knew that a part of the agenda was to learn mediation, and I always knew that just at home that would be a good skill to have. I just think it comes up all the time and it’s important to know these skills,” Dafoe said.

This year, the Leaders plan on continuing successful past activities, like “How Rude” presentations, “Friendship Files” and lending their counseling services to the Archer community.

“[Friendship Files] is a series of three X-blocks, and each X-block we had a case study where we read the situation — like an argument that two friends got into — and we talked about it and worked it out and read the resolution that the two friends came to in the story, and talked about what the [Archer] girls would have done,” Jacobs said. “We also just bonded with them and made a connection with middle schoolers that we wouldn’t have made otherwise. It was a good time.”

They hope to make themselves known to Archer students by putting up a bulletin and showing an introductory video.

“I’d just tell everyone to use us to their advantage and not be afraid because we most likely can really help them, and not to be intimidated by a bunch of high schoolers — and that we can become friends,” Dafoe said.

“A lot of people think that, since we’re in high school, it’s weird for other high schoolers to talk to us, but it’s just talking,” Wakeham agreed. “It’s like talking talking to a friend, but we’re trained to help you get to a better place.”