HESPERIA -- Have you, as a student, ever realized that when you have an issue or problem, you talk more to someone your age than an adult? Well, did you know that there is a program at Hesperia High School precisely for that reason? Peer assistance/support is based on the fact that youth feel more comfortable talking to their peers than adults.
Peer supporters are trained and supervised to provide any or all of the following:
- Help teens feel capable, understood, and responsible.
- Contribute to the climate of care and respect at HHS.
- Demonstrate the value of service to others.
- Mediation and conflict resolution.
Peer support offers conflict mediation services. Peer mediators can help students resolve conflict by sitting down and going through a conflict resolution process step-by-step. Participants sign an agreement contract.
Because counseling is based on a trusting relationship between counselor and client, the peer assistants will keep the information shared by any student confidential, except in situations in which there is an ethical responsibility to limit confidentiality. Peer assistants are mandated under law to report any homicide, suicide, and abuse discussion.
According to Junior, Peer Counseling Treasury, Itzel Bermudez, "For me, peer counseling is somewhere where you learn about yourself and get to understand what life is, what reality is, and the situations in life, and an advanced peer is where you get to actually get involved with people who have issues," she added, "Just communicate with people and just life lessons."
Although Peer Counseling is based at Hesperia High School, it’s been able to help the community in countless ways.
"There’s a peer counseling class, and there's a peer club. Every student in the class will also be part of the club. The club is when we do the community outreach and the community programs," says Hesperia High School counselor Bradley Strehle, “We typically just volunteer in the community, we look for volunteer opportunities with the community.”
Strehle explains, "We will visit occasionally assisted living facilities, so we will meet with people that live in these assisted living facilities.”
Even when the peer students aren’t physically going out to do community service, they’re still using other tactics to better our city.
"The premise of peer is to promote, as we just had, Unity Day. The whole program is to promote unity and to promote anti-bullying awareness, so even if we’re not going out in the community and doing things like that all the time, what we are trying to do here is foster a culture. We want to foster a culture of unity here at the school, so we do a lot of outreach here at the school, which hopefully spreads out to the community by the students. So the students learning about this stuff when they go out and are just citizens of the community, they can at least have knowledge of, ‘This is how we should behave, and this is what we should be doing,’" Strehle concludes.
Senior Julissah Navarro adds, "Peer Counseling is really a great way to get out of your shell and find comfort in others, and know that you’re not alone with things that you deal with mentally and emotionally. It’s also a nice way to just help others feel better about themselves. "
According to Junior, Damon Richie, "A lot of people aren’t comfortable with talking to adults, so it’s like another option if you really want to get something off your chest or just want to [express your issues]."
Junior, Africa Durruthy agreed, adding, "I feel, as a teenager, you just go through so much during high school that you just think that it’s better to just bottle it up, but in reality, you just need somebody to listen, and hear you out, and [talking] would just smooth over any conflicts you are having."
"Most of the time [conflict mediations] is just [students] not being able to handle what they're going through, or whatever they see, and sometimes it’s here at school, which is understandable, so, most of the time it’s trying to get them distracted on what just happened and if they want to talk about it freely, then they can talk about it," Itzel added, "But if it comes to any major situation, of course, we gotta tell an adult counselor."
Some of the Peer Events that they are known for doing almost every year for the community:
Unity Day - October
The Great Kindness Challenge - January
Read Across America - March
Rena’s Dress - April
“We’ve also done programs that include something called "Santa’s Clothes." This is a program where students that are disadvantaged and come from low-income families, they’re allowed to shop at Target. They’re given like $120 to just kind of shop, and as peers, we will go and shop with those students to help them pick things out that they need. We do a lot of community outreach in that respect, so a lot of community service," Strehle adds.
“We go to some of the schools in the district and work with the youth, with the elementary school-aged kids,” Strehle then adds, “So we’ve done that in the past.”
“Besides Santa's Clothes, Rena’s Dresses is another program where it provides individuals who can’t afford prom attire, so we can go there and volunteer and help with distributing the clothes, so we’ve done that,” Strehle explains.
“We’ve been part of Hesperia Days, so in the past, we worked during Hesperia Days and volunteered there,” Strehle ends with, “So those are the kinds of things we’ve done as a peer group.”
“We are supposed to represent unity, we’re supposed to represent kindness, we’re supposed to represent understanding and compassion so going out and really volunteering in places where people need help with certain things,” Strehle adds, “So it's not just, hey we’re volunteering and just sitting there at a local business, it’s going out and being active volunteering, doing things that help the community.
To sign up for a meeting with a Peer Counselor
To sign up for a peer counseling meeting, you can go to the Hesperia High School website where you can sign up for a peer meeting. So a student can go to scorpiancountry.com and they click on the menu button and then click on counseling they will see a link that says HHS Peer Counseling. That will take a student to the peer counseling page where you can sign up for a peer meeting on a google form.
Thinking about becoming a peer counselor?
Unlike most clubs and classes, the peer counseling program uses its beginning peer counseling class to train new students for advanced peer counseling.
"Students will take at least one year of beginning peer before they can become an advanced peer counselor. In the beginning class, you have to be a tenth or eleventh grader to go into that class, and during the school year you are being trained on how to talk with other students, how to do conflict mediation, and those kinds of things," Counselor Brad Strehle states.
"The training happens in the class, and the second year, if the student chooses to do it for a second year, they will be placed in the counseling office. They will work in the counseling office using the training that they learned in the beginning class, to work with students, talk with students, and to do conflict mediations," Strehle adds.
Peer counseling is an elective just like any other class, so if you're interested in becoming a peer counselor, schedule a meeting with your counselor in room A-7, or sign up to take the class next year. It’s open to all tenth and eleventh-grade students who enjoy helping others.
Peer Counseling is for all grade levels in Hesperia High School to join, but when taking the class it does start you off as a beginner. Once your teacher (currently Sara Scott) and Brad Sthrele decide whether or not they believe you are prepared to have a one-on-one conversation with someone.
"Don’t take it like a regular class, take it as a life lesson, take it as something to value, for you to see what life really is, not just for you to live and then die, it’s something for you to experience and just see what other people go through, not just you," Itzel advised.
But don’t let this class scare you. Many kids who are currently in Beginning Peer enjoy learning how to prepare themselves to be peer counselors, especially Juniors, Damon Richie and Africa Durruthy.
"Um, I joined peer counseling because I’m a really nice person, I care for others and how others feel, I just want to make sure that the community of the school is together as one and is helping each other out," Damon explained.
"I joined peer counseling because when I first heard about it and heard you could help people who are on campus and be very connected in the school, like spirit, and stuff, I really liked it cause I really like helping people and just hearing out their problems and just guiding them to better understandings," Africa expressed.
The beginning peer class is always learning, it’s amazing to think that they began not knowing anything about conflict mediation and are now practicing in their classroom for it.
"I’ve learned to really take a step back and just look at the world and how it is from an outside perspective and just really take in how to become a better individual," Africa said.
"I learned to just take your time with people, don’t judge them so fast, just try to get to know the person before you start judging," Damon commented.
The Peer Counseling class is trying to rebuild its program as the pandemic caused it to lose interest and popularity. So, for this year, the Beginner Peers and Advanced Peers are trying their best to spread the word on Peer Counseling.
"Yeah, I would [recommend others to join peer [counseling] but it does take a strong level of maturity to join peer, because you can’t reflect peer behavior and then do other ways, so you can’t go against it," Africa then added, "So if you were interested in joining peer, you would have to be very responsible and mature."
Damon added, "About the same, you can’t go tell other people what you heard while you were inside that meeting, be very responsible and keep it to yourself."
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