‘Make the difference:’ SCS students complete Peer Helpers Summit
Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015
By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer
CHELSEA – Nearly 100 students from six high schools in Shelby County spent the school day together Nov. 10 as they learned how to lead and help their classmates and friends through changes in their lives.
The students, called Peer Helpers, took part group activities at Chelsea High School in the first district-wide Peer Helper Summit for Shelby County Schools.
The CHHS Peer Helper program hosted the summit, in which students in 10th through 12th grades led small-group discussions with other Peer Helpers throughout the district to address diversity, empathy, the effects of bullying and prejudice, as well as collaborate to identify ways to unify their schools and communities, CHHS Peer Helper adviser Jennifer Bailey wrote in an email Nov. 9.
“Peer Helpers are trained to assist their peers through conflict mediation, peer counseling, crisis management, mentoring and tutoring,” Bailey wrote. “They are equipped to identify depressive and suicidal behaviors in their peers, and they participate in various leadership trainings throughout the year. These activities prepare them to lead their peers, and the organization also participates in service-learning projects.”
In addition to CHHS, students at the Nov. 10 Peer Helper Summit represented the following schools: Shelby County High, Calera High, Helena High, Vincent Middle High and Montevallo High.
Bailey said the goal of the summit was to train Peer Helpers from other schools to be able to lead the program – IMPACT Day – at their respective schools.
“You are the change you want to see in your school,” Bailey said to the students before they were dismissed. “You need to go back to your schools, and you need to implement this.”
Dalton Odom, a junior at CHHS, said despite coming from different backgrounds, the students were able to get along with each other.
“It was awesome how we left having so many friends we didn’t have before,” senior Sara Grace Beatty said. “We had four different schools in our one group.”
Katie Jennings, a junior, said she enjoyed having the opportunity to spend the day discussing issues with the other teens and to “get to know each other on such a vulnerable and personal level.”
“I thought it was really cool to see so many people let their guards down and open up,” junior Samantha Fant said. “It’s not often that you get to sit down and think about it and think of a way to break them down.”
Bailey said the purpose of IMPACT Day is “to improve school culture by educating students and equipping them to lead their peers in making their schools a more welcoming, positive learning environment in which all students have the opportunity to thrive.”
“You’re going to make an impact on someone,” Bailey said to the group. “You get to choose whether it’s positive or negative. Y’all make the difference.”
In a large group discussion, students said they learned to come out of their shells, to be mindful of what others are going through, to reserve judgment of others and to be mindful of the positive and negative influence of social media.
“I just really love this whole atmosphere of leadership and acceptance,” senior Tyler Stidham said. “I really love how this ragtag group of teenagers is able to impact each other so heavily.”