Empowering a New Cohort of Peer Leaders
A corps of motivated young leaders are ready to return to school and make a change!
This summer, PeerForward traveled around the country inspiring and training a new generation of Peer Leaders to promote a college-going culture at their schools. At our eight US workshops as well as the first-ever workshop in Bermuda, rising seniors from 73 high schools gathered for team building in person, with 8 additional schools joining online.
This year’s three-day workshops followed a unique hybrid model, combining virtual writing sessions with in-person financial aid and college coaching. Students arrived at the workshops eager to take the first steps toward a postsecondary education and left with a fresh determination to lead their communities toward college achievement.
“I believe I can make a difference in my high school,” said Jordan, Peer Leader at Oxon Hill High School, Maryland. The Peer Leaders’ goal is to spread the PeerForward message that everyone needs a plan for continuing education after high school. At the workshops, they learned to leverage their diverse leadership strengths to develop social media campaigns and peer-to-peer outreach efforts.
Jeff, a Peer Leader from Parkdale High School in Maryland, is working to increase his school’s FAFSA sign-up rates: “There’s not a lot of support or motivation for students to fill it out. If we motivate them, they’ll see that there’s someone who cares and is there to help them succeed.”
Zahir, a Peer Leader from New York’s High School for Law and Public Service, reflected that PeerForward has helped him grow as a leader so that when he returns to school this fall, he can support his peers in their re-adjustment to in-person learning as well as the college process. His advice to his classmates is, “Don’t let your losses bring you down. Just keep moving forward!”
A core of dedicated Advisors from the Peer Leaders’ high schools is also ready to support them in their outreach efforts. While the Peer Leaders built their college lists and crafted the first drafts of their personal statements, their Advisors – a group of school educators and counselors – participated in professional development and training sessions.
Mr. Lennon Moore and Mr. James Hargraves serve as Advisors for Bowie High School in Maryland, and they summarize the Peer Leadership Model in three categories: Tools, Training, and Direction. “The Playbook, Scoreboard and online resources are rich with ideas, suggestions, and models to implement successful campaigns and events.
“The workshops and ongoing meetings with Peer Advisors and Coaches provide ongoing training on leadership concepts such as communication, teamwork, and collaboration,” Mr. Moore said. He found that his students emerged from the workshops ready to “create a college-going culture through our school and carry out the mission with confidence and a spirit of excellence.”
Ms. Akili Taylor, an Advisor from Surrattsville High School in Maryland, shared that she is “hopeful for the impact the Peer Leaders will make. They seem very energetic, and I hope they’ll use what they learned last year as juniors to propel them forward.”
Every year, PeerForward is fortunate to welcome back a dynamic group of PeerForward Alumni who usher in a new generation of Peer Leaders. The Alumni Support Team represents the heartbeat of our organization. As role models and influencers for our Peer Leaders, they are tasked with one of the more difficult responsibilities at workshops: they keep everyone – staff included – energized, engaged, and entertained. Operations Support Team Member Dawit Amare gave his perspective on returning to workshops: “being with PeerForward brings me down to earth to appreciate the counseling and motivation I got. It reminds me of where I came from and where I want to go.”
Mi’Jan Credle, another member of the Alumni Team and an incoming senior at Bowie State University, wants the Peer Leaders who follow in his footsteps to know, “You have more power than you think you do. I have that power, and I can use it as a tool to positively impact others.”
We look forward to our upcoming fall training sessions, which will adapt to in-person or virtual formats according to safety precautions.
Read some of our Peer Leaders’ words of advice for the Class of 2022:
“Being a leader is scary, but it’s possible to turn fear into courage. It’s your choice to be a leader, it’s your opportunity to be courageous.” – Richard, International High School at Largo
“Break the generational curses. We can do anything! Don’t let anyone restrict you and remember how much you’ve already gone through to be where you are now.” – Jamirah, American Sign Language & English Secondary School
“Trust yourself. As long as you believe in your abilities, no one can tell you otherwise.” – Melayiah, Potomac High School