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CEO Gary Z. Linnen Shares 4 Exciting Program Updates

The 2021-22 year has been an eventful one at PeerForward. We have expanded our Core and College programs both nationally and internationally, and we reconnected in person after a year of virtual programming.

We spoke with PeerForward CEO Gary Linnen about his thoughts on some of this year’s most exciting program updates.

  1. PeerForward in College (PFiC)’s Broward program gets results

Results from the first two years of PeerForward’s program at Broward College, FL indicate that mentees served by Peer Leaders have a 71% higher college completion rate compared to all students. The data indicates that PeerForward in College is scalable, as it is significantly more affordable than comparable programs achieving similar results.

Gary reflected, “At all three of our college campuses, what we’ve learned is that the peer-to-peer model really works. That has always been what our alumni have said that they needed, and they were correct. We’ve only been piloting this program for almost three years now, starting at Broward College, but to see these results is exciting. We’re able to bring a unique opportunity to the field of college completion by leveraging what we’ve done for the last 25 years.”

  1. PeerForward in College expands to Kentucky

With PeerForward programs at Broward College and California State LA showing promising early results, PFiC expanded to several Kentucky colleges this year.

Gary shared, “Kentucky is our first rural venture in the college space. It’s not new to PeerForward, however, as we have years of experience working in all types of areas. It goes back to our days working in West Virginia and Texas. We’ve brought on a number of new institutions over the past year, and it’s always exciting to have new partners that really understand the value of leveraging the power of peer influence to impact their communities. Part of our strategic plan over the next couple of years is increase our impact and footprint [on college campuses]. If we can double our efforts within the next year or two, that will be a huge milestone for us.”

  1. Piloting PeerForward’s Core program in Bermuda

PeerForward’s pilot program in Bermuda high schools is the organization’s first international venture. But as CEO Gary Linnen explained, the organization’s goals remain much the same:

“Peer-to-peer influence is not limited to the USA. As much as Bermuda is an international country, they share very similar challenges to many of our American students. Black and brown individuals in both countries face the fact that they don’t have many options in front of them, and in Bermuda the options are even more limited. There’s an over-saturation of lawyers out there, for instance, but there are not enough individuals that go into international banking, and international banking is where the money is.”

Gary went on to illustrate the importance of expanding PeerForward’s Core program to new partner schools:

“Students are questioning the value of a postsecondary degree, but we don’t let that deter us from the end goal, which is about economic mobility and agency and making sure that individuals have enough money in their pockets to live a meaningful life. That’s why I’m excited about our partners because they’re asking us to be a part of their process of getting people to understand the value of the different options after high school. College is the major highway, but there are other routes that one can take in order to get to the same place.”

  1. PeerForward workshops are back in person

This summer, PeerForward is bringing back in-person workshops, which will run for three weeks in July at a college campus. Gary Linnen reflected on the importance of coming back together physically after years of pandemic disruptions:

“I think this year is a pivotal year: if there’s ever a time for those who believe in the importance of having a postsecondary degree or credential, the time is now. The pandemic has tired individuals out, and there’s a yearning to be back in person and try to figure out how we coexist in a world where, while COVID’s not going anywhere, we can try to normalize it in our everyday practices. This is the time to step out and show that we can do it together. I think that’s important to remind ourselves, because people have lost hope. I think this is a chance to regain hope. PeerForward has always been unique in being able to inspire not only our young adults, but the community to say there is hope and we can get past this. By facing these obstacles together, we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Remember that time when we went to that workshop that changed the trajectory of our lives, because we got to the chance to re-instill hope.’ That’s what I’m looking forward to this summer.”

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