Educating Positive Teen Role Models
The Peer Leaders initiative is an extension of Teen Choice, a school-based program in New York City schools. Students who demonstrate leadership and dedication, are passing all their classes, and are interested in taking an active role in promoting the information and values from Teen Choice can apply to be peer leaders. Students accepted into the program train on a wide variety of teen-related subjects that prepare them to work with peers and staff, promoting healthy relationships, family engagement, and providing sexual reproductive health referrals to local clinics.
The Peer Leaders Summer Training is an intensive, 4-week course that includes at least 60 (but typically 80) hours of training, supplemented with social and educational outings and activities. In addition to their deep engagement with Teen Choice subject matter, Peer Leaders are exposed to social marketing theory and apply it to designing activities targeted to their peers. These activities include poster campaigns, public announcements, and school-wide activities in recognition of commemorative days and months such as World AIDS Day, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, The National Day of Silence (in recognition of harassment and violence faced by those who identify as LGBTQ), and Let’s Talk Month (which encourages parent-child communication about sexuality). Peer Leaders also work to develop creatively informative presentations of the concepts on which they have focused—often, such as brief theatrical skits.
In addition to this formal training, Teen Choice Peer Leaders also participate in a weekend leadership retreat at the Berkshires Camp. Activities include trust- and team-building exercises to show the Peer Leaders, in a concrete way, what it takes to become a community leader and role model, and how their relationships to and within their community will change as they begin this new role.