Peer leaders serve as positive role models at Greencastle-Antrim

September 03, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Three days into the 2009-2010 school year, the peer leaders at Greencastle-Antrim High School have already started to fall into a groove.

Tasked with setting an example for their fellow students as they navigate the difficult choices of adolescence, the peer leaders meet weekly to craft messages of awareness for the school.

When it comes to advice on drugs, relationships, sex and alcohol, teens are more likely to listen to teens than to adults, said Diane Reed, advisor for Peer Leadership and counselor at GAHS.

"They are the link between the administration and the students," Reed said. "I have found that for teenagers they find it is easier to talk to other teens, than to adults."


Adolescence is filled with difficult choices, said peer leader Breton Carlson, 17, a senior at GAHS.

By setting an example of a life above the influence of drugs, alcohol and destructive behavior, a student can be a positive role model for his or her peers, she said.

"I had always noticed the peer leaders when I was younger," Breton said. "I saw the stuff that they would do and I thought it would be cool to do it too."

The peer leaders are an active group at the high school, said peer leader Stephen Herman, a 16-year-old junior.

Whether its setting up tables in the cafeteria with information on wellness, creating posters that convey statistics on underage drinking, calling every new student before the start of school, or just listening when a student needs to talk, the group is a definite presence on the Greencastle-Antrim campus, he said.

"I remember the peer leaders from before I was in high school," said junior Alex Yoder, a peer leader. "They came to the middle school to talk to us about smoking.

While many students, particularly freshman, look up to the peer leaders, the job is often a thankless one, said peer leader Ema Bobbitt, a 15-year-old sophomore.

"You don't always find out if you have made a difference or not," she said. "But you got to keep going anyway."

Being a peer leader comes with a responsibility to live the messages of tolerance, sobriety and safety advocated by the group, said Reed.

Students have been asked to leave in the group's 5-year past for failing to exemplify its purpose, she said.

Each student has his or her own way of staying on the path.

"I just try to be happy and let the kids see me having fun," Stephen said.

"We're not here to change them on the spot, we are here to give them what they need to change themselves," Alex said.

The students are making a difference, whether they feel it or not, Reed said, adding that more students applied to be peer leaders this year than ever before.

"That tells me they are making a difference," she said.

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