The peer leadership program is a powerful ministry that’s in place at Marist for nearly 20 years in which senior students are placed as assistants in lower grade level courses to assist teachers and students. It is a senior level alternative religion course.
Students apply to the program as juniors. They must complete an essay and application and obtain two letters of recommendation from teachers. There were 143 students enrolled in the program this year and it will grow to 160 in 2017-2018. Peer leaders serve the science, social studies, math, world language, and English departments. Additionally, they are assigned to a study focused on study skills. In August, peer leaders attend a summer training session where they learn about the Marcellin program, which serves students who have learning challenges and benefit from one-on-one support. Throughout the school year they continue to attend seminars about learning differences, empathy and active listening, self-care, SMART goals, motivation, and closure. “While at these seminars, aside from covering specific topics, peer leaders reflect on their work and share experiences with other peer leaders,” explained program coordinator Sarah Rakauskas. “They brainstorm ideas for problem solving and support each other in their unique roles.”
Having benefited from working with a peer leader when she was an underclassman, senior MiKaela Dismukes felt called to be a leader herself. She said she often offers words of advice and encouragement to her students. “Peer leadership was an enriching experience that allowed me to know that my action service will benefit someone,” she explained.
In class peer leaders run science labs, lead small group discussions regarding reading assignments, work one-on-one and in small groups on various topics and run board work. They teach aspects of various courses, provide review exercises, monitor and facilitate in-class work, and assist with classroom preparation and organization. Their work can vary from large group facilitation to one-on-one proofreading and editing. Peer leaders develop a lesson to teach intheir classrooms during the third quarter.
“I took peer leadership in part to enhance my own mathematical skills,” explained Cody Busch ’17. “I also wanted to teach and help others who struggle with something that comes more easily to me.” Busch said that through this ministry program he has learned that he is thoughtful and more selfless than he believed. “Peer leaders give a sense of comfort, relieve pressure, and increase the enjoyment in learning for students in a class in which they might struggle,” he said.
“Peer leaders offer a greater sense of support for the students in our Marcellin Program,” math teacher Mike Reid '10 said. “Some students may feel more comfortable working with a peer than a teacher, and in reality I can't be everywhere at once. Peer leaders benefit the class by allowing the instruction to be more individualized for their specific needs.”
Peer leaders develop an understanding of servant leadership, and focus and grow a sense of empathy. “The peer leaders become aware of the needs, both visible and invisible, of students with exceptionalities; then design and deliver a lesson plan and activities for a specific student population,” Rakauskas said.
Peer Leadership is a unique and valuable course offered at Marist. Not only does a senior have the opportunity to live the course material they have learned throughout their time at Marist, they get to make a real difference and develop relationships and lifelong skills that set them far apart from others their age.
Top Photo: Senior MiKaela Dismukes works with a small group of biology students on a class assignment.
Right photo: Cody Busch ’17 helps a student one on one in Algebra 2.