In this era of instant gratification, when answers to all of life’s questions can be found through a click, tweet or a post, it is increasingly difficult to engage with our students on important issues such as health, wellness and safety. In general, having these conversations with teens can be challenging: our students, when discussing personal issues, may feel awkward or uncertain, and we are left hoping that our hard-earned wisdom has managed to penetrate their minds. With this uncertainty it is imperative that Dana Hall School provide health and wellness education to our students through a variety of outlets, including Forum classes, X-block as well as peer education.
It is generally understood that during adolescence, friendship groups become increasingly influential in forming a student’s opinions and viewpoints. Peer-led education takes advantage of this fact by redirecting the influence of peers to facilitate positive change on decisions made by younger students. Older students offer a unique credibility amongst their peers and are often viewed as more approachable than their adult counterparts. This presents the opportunity to transform the attitudes of our younger students and promote healthy behaviors, in a supportive learning environment through our Peer Education Program.
Our peer educators are upper classwoman who are selected through an application and interview process by the Peer Education advisors: Director of Athletics Health and Wellness John Suby, Shipley Center Program Coordinator Margie Bailey and myself. Many students are inspired to apply to the program because of the positive impact their own peer educators had on them when they were the younger student. Our peer educators are mentors who are confident that they can be role models and reflect the values and integrity of the program. Being a member of the Peer Education Program requires a significant commitment from our young ladies on top of their already busy schedules. They attend regular training sessions, evening parent events, and organize SADD week. They also offer up one free period during second trimester to teach a class in the 5th through 9th grade. The program offers social interaction and a connection between our Middle School and Upper School, which helps facilitate a sense of unity across campus.
As the Health Director and a nurse at Dana Hall, it is my responsibility to advocate for the overall health of our students so that they may be successful learners. My involvement in Peer Education is one more way I can promote Health and Wellness at Dana, and the program provides a much-needed alternative resource to technology as students navigate the twists and turns of adolescence.