About the Practice
This year we’ve used a significant portion of our ESI funds to create a peer mentoring program. This program – adopted from the Princeton Center for Supportive Schools’ Peer Group Connection program – is intended to:
• Build relationships between older and younger students in the school
• Create opportunities for students to claim leadership roles in the school
• Create community among 9th graders, in groups of students who might not otherwise interact
• Provide opportunities for 9th graders to gain knowledge and wisdom about perseverance and success in school from older students who’ve walked their path before
• Ease the transition from MS to HS, and support quick integration of 9th graders into school culture
• Emphasize the importance of academic success in 9th grade in establishing a strong foundation for the future
• Create a culture among students where they hold one anther accountable for healthy social norms
• Supporting staff in developing facilitation skills as they teach them to students
Our peer mentoring program is run by a group of 11th and 12th students called “Peer Leaders” who co-facilitate (in mixed gender pairs) weekly “Outreach Sessions” with groups of ten 9th graders. Peer Leaders are pre selected to join the program, and have to apply. Though they are not all exemplary students, they are students who believe in the mission of the program and its goals for school improvement. The Peer Leaders have a daily class that is co-taught by a teacher and a Guidance Counselor in which they plan for, and reflect upon, their facilitation of the weekly Outreach Sessions.
9th graders experience weekly Outreach Sessions each Thursday during an advisory period. Each week they meet with the same group of Peer Leaders to experience a session planned around a specific theme (i.e. academic achievement, peer pressure, goal setting, bullying, attendance, team building, trust, etc.). From each session, 9th graders leave with new ideas to think about regarding the themes, and a broader sense of community within the school.
Our peer mentoring program also includes a parent outreach component. We held a 9th grade Family Night, in which the Peer Leaders facilitated sessions with parents, in both Spanish and English, to introduce parents to what their children experience during Outreach Sessions and to help parents discuss some of the same issues their teenage children grapple with.
Target Population/Total Students:
The target population for our peer mentoring program is three fold:
1) All new 9th graders (approx. 80 students), and their families
2) A group of twenty 11th and 12th grade Peer Leaders
3) The WHOLE SCHOOL by extension!
- Space in the school for Outreach Sessions to meet (there are 9 of them that meet at the same time)
- Planning time for the staff co-teachers of the class
- Budgeting for supplies, events, and support from the Peer Group Connection program. We intend to sustain the program over time, but it requires a significant investment up front to get training from the Princeton Center for Supportive Schools (though with ESI funds this is very manageable for now).
- Full logistical investment in making the program work – protecting time, staff, building buy-in from students and staff, building permits for events, etc.
- Establishing and maintaining stakeholder (teacher, admin, Parent Coord) support – it won’t work without this!
How did school overcome challenges?
The most important challenge we tackled initially was building stakeholder support among administration, teacher facilitators, and our parent coordinator. With a unified front among stakeholders, everything else follows. Once stakeholder buy in was established, we worked on building staff buy in over the summer, and during Sept staff PD days. WE conducted trainings for all staff on what the program is, why we’re doing it, and how we believe it will benefit the entire community.
How did you evaluate that this practice was effective?
We’re judging the effectiveness of our peer mentoring program using the following qualitative and quantitative measures:
• Student attendance
• Suspension rates
• Course pass rates
• Investment and engagement in school
• Respect for the school, school property, and school community
• Student attitudes about school spirit and cohesion in the community
• Student satisfaction with school
How will you continue to sustain this practice?
See notes above. We intend to sustain our peer mentoring program as long as possible.