Several years ago, Youth Services started a Peer Mentor program for teens. This is our first year at Kennedy After School Program to participate.
The idea behind the program is to provide a leadership opportunity for a youth who has already been in one of our programs but to also give the youth someone closer to their own age who they can look up to and talk to about their problems. When needed, the peer mentors come to us for guidance.
But can teens really mentor other teens?
At least in our program, the answer is yes. Having a peer mentor at after school has been a huge bonus.
Dyllan, a former student of our program, has done a great job of assisting the rest of the staff in our every day programming. He brings great energy to every activity he’s involved in, whether it be teaching skateboarding, bowling, playing dodge ball or just playing board games. He has a lot of patience with the students and really gets them involved. The students that attend the program really look up to him as a positive role model. Incredibly, he’s been just as valuable as my regular staff this year.
But our success with peer mentors isn’t unique. Several studies have shown a number of benefits of teen mentoring programs across the nation. Some of the benefits they have seen are:
- less violence and aggressive behavior
- better attendance in school
- improved family and parental relationships
- a positive inclination towards helping others
- improved self-esteem
- less likely to develop smoking and other addictions
I can definitely see a difference in the program this year, thanks to our peer mentor Dyllan. And he seems to think so too! Here are his own words about the peer mentor experience:
Honestly the Kennedy After School Program to me is a great place for kids to come after school and just plain old hang out. It’s a good way to keep a lot of kids out of gangs and just out of trouble.
I used to go to the Program when i went to Kennedy Jr. High and it definitely kept me out of some bad situations, it was a place that i was safe and out of harm. Being a peer mentor this year is really exciting for me, being in the footsteps of people who I saw every day when I was in Jr High makes me feel like more of a better guy.
Being able to get this opportunity to work for the Program and Youth Services is great because I know I’m helping kids stay out of fights and trouble after school. I do believe this program is more of a safe place for some kids than a place just to stay away from your house.
What do you think? Can teens be a role model for their peers?