Peer Leadership is an empowering course available for LHS Juniors and Seniors; it gives students leadership and group facilitation skills that they can use in both the school community and for the rest of their lives, and meets twice in an eight day rotation. Mrs. Warren, who teaches the course, “does a great job teaching the class and preparing students for different issues and conflicts that come up throughout the school year,” says Junior James Mclaughlin. If interested in joining the elective, a student must receive two staff recommendations and complete an application. Mrs. Warren says that “the focus [of Peer Leadership] is on equipping students with strategies that will foster an inclusive, respectful school community.” Students develop skills on how to bring discussions around problems like discrimination and prejudice out in the open, which allows people to understand the real issues in their peers’ lives. This creates dialogue around these issues and allows for solutions to be brought to light. “Doing peer leadership enables me to take what I really loved about [teaching as a history teacher] and combines it with my counseling experience,” says Mrs. Warren. Students learn how to be active listeners, resolve conflicts, and show empathy; peer leaders also focus a lot on discussing the importance of diversity. According to Mrs. Warren, diversity is a wide spectrum: “When we talk about diversity, we’re not just talking about ethnicity or race, we’re also talking about gender, gender identities, sexuality, socio-economic status, academics and anything that a student feels strongly about.” If students have ideas that they want to implement into the discussions, there is time for them to share their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.
Peer Leadership is deeply involved in working with the school community. They visit health classes to talk about bullying, and also try to normalize seeking help for mental health issues. In a recent addition to the course, the peer leaders visit the eighth graders and help students with the daunting transition to the high school. An important event for Peer Leadership is Unmasked, an annual end of the school year affair that….. It shows underclassmen what peer leadership is about and also “allows [students] to have a voice, talk about what is happening at the school, and discuss the problems,” says Senior and peer leader Kayla Martinez.
In the words of Senior Maya Powe, “peer leadership is about coming together, unity, and being there for people who need you. It’s also about making sure everybody has a voice and a place at the school.” An important part in what they do is making sure everybody knows that they are not alone, and that there is always someone that they can turn to. “The class is also a break from school and allows students to vent about school and life topics in a relaxed environment,” says Powe. Throughout the class, the biggest focus and purpose is for students to talk about the day-to-day issues affecting them with a positive and constructive direction. This helps the students feel less powerless as they try to work through the issues. For Junior Yasmine Rosewell, “Peer leadership is a place where we can come together, communicate with others, and overcome our struggles together to make our school a better place for everyone.”