OVERVIEW OF THE PEER ADVOCATE PROGRAM
Peer Advocates is a peer-helping program for high school students who want to strengthen their communication and helping skills to provide support to others and service to their schools and the Stratford community.
The Peer Advocate program is based on a simple premise: within every school, an informal “helping network” exists. Students with problems naturally seek out other students whom they trust. They seek them out for advice, for assistance, or just for a sympathetic ear. The Peer Advocate program uses this existing helping network by providing training to students who are identified by their peers as already helping. It gives them the skills they need to provide help more effectively to young people who seek them out.
Peer Advocates are a cross-section of students identified through an anonymous school wide survey. These students are then invited to participate in the Peer Advocate program. The program begins with an overnight retreat training where they learn how to improve their helping skills, how to contact helping resources when problems exceed their limits, and how to better care for themselves when dealing with friends’ problems. Peer Advocates are not professionally trained counselors.
After the retreat, Peer Advocates will be offered opportunities to become involved in other youth leadership programs through Stratford Community Services.
Peer Advocates report significant benefits from being involved in the program, whether their involvement is helping one to one, assisting with other programs, or volunteering for community projects. Peer Advocates find that the skills they learn and practice in working with others are beneficial with friends, teachers, employers, and family. They make new friends in the program and break down some of the barriers that exist in any community. Peer Advocates also experience that special feeling that comes from helping someone else and knowing that they have made a difference.
For more information, please contact Lisa Perez-Cabello, Youth and Family Counselor Health Department/Stratford Community Services Town of Stratford at (203) 385-4095, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.