Peer to Peer: Students Making a Difference

On April 26 a banquet was held at the Chadwick to officially mark the close of and to celebrate the projects of the 2015-16 Peer to Peer Empowerment program.

Now in its fifth year, the program’s goal is to help students develop the skills needed to deal with social justice issues affecting their everyday lives. When Crisis Center North first began Peer to Peer Empowerment only four schools participated. That number has since swelled to 12 schools and over 10,000 students impacted.

Instead of being passive participants, in the program students are given the opportunity to better their school and their community by creating and leading their own program to address an issue. By encouraging students to take an active stance, they learn that their actions can make a positive change and inspire their peers to action as well.

“The students inspire me every year. Often school administrators and teachers don’t realize the asset they have in the student body, the power they have to make positive change,” said Leon Strimel, CCN prevention educator and coordinator of the Peer to Peer program. “The success of [Peer to Peer] has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with [the students].”

At the banquet students from most of the participating high schools presented an overview of the trials, tribulations, and successes of their collective project.

As opposed to previous years where schools would work independently, students decided they wanted a single coordinated theme and plan for all schools. For 2016, students chose to confront dating violence, a prevalent yet often understated issue. As such, for the first week of February, Teen Violence Awareness Month, students coordinated programming in their schools dedicated toward one goal: To “Say No More” to abusive relationships.

Though there was variation in exact implementation and activities among schools, each day brought a different method of spreading awareness of teen dating violence.

  • On Monday students sold purple wristbands bearing the motto “Respect Starts with Me” and the phone number to Crisis Center North’s hotline.
  • For Twitter Tuesday students, teachers, and staff from Crisis Center North shared the signs of dating violence and ways to intervene on social media.
  • Wednesday celebrated positive relationships in all their forms, and students singled out and gave treats to anyone doing something nice for a person.
  • Thursday and Friday varied for each school, but activities included guest speakers, information campaigns, and athletes advertising the cause by wearing purple articles of clothing during sporting events.

“I love Peer to Peer Empowerment, and I can really see the impact it has on our whole school,” said a student from Pine-Richland. “None of this would be possible without you, Leon, so on behalf of Pine-Richland and all of the other schools involved, thank you so much for creating this program and making it what it is today.”

Student participants of Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM), another CCN school-based prevention program were also in attendance. CBIM aims to reduce instances of violence by teaching positive gender attitudes and encouraging bystander intervention. Some of those students shared their thoughts on the programming and on Strimel.

“Mr. Strimel taught us problem solving skills and skills to help us deal with conflicts,” said a Moon athlete. “It built team chemistry.”

“We learned how to be role models, not only in our school, but in society. We learned to lead by example,” said a Northgate student. “[Mr. Strimel and CBIM] taught us responsibility, and how it builds trust with others.”

Also in attendance for the banquet was a representative from the Jefferson Awards Foundation. All schools were recognized for their work in Peer to Peer, with special recognition given to Shaler and Pine-Richland for their participation in other programs offered by the Foundation.

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