BY JOSEPH STURGEON
At CCHS, the options for extracurricular electives are seemingly endless. The school offers photography, art, band and film as well as other non-traditional elective courses. For the 2019-2020 school year, one particular class, peer counseling, has joined the list of the many electives offered at Cooper.
Taught by guidance counselor Kimberly Lilly, the course focuses on training its students to become leaders in the classroom and beyond, honing in on developing students’ communication and public speaking skills, as well as the ability to recognize certain issues that their peers may be dealing with.
Peer counseling classes aren’t unfamiliar to CCHS—the school has had the course in the past, but at some point halted its existence. Principal Doll wanted to bring it back and approached Lilly about teaching it last school year.
“Peers helping peers is much more effective than adults helping students,” Lilly said. “Peers can do things that, for us adults, [are] harder for us to do. [Principal Doll] knew that she wanted a program that would provide additional support for the school community and for new students to come in and be integrated into the community.”
“Peers helping peers is much more effective than adults helping students.”
Students taking the peer counseling course at CCHS undergo awareness and sensitivity training that aims to help them understand the many issues their peers may potentially face, including mental health, family problems and toxic relationships.
“I have a lot of flexibility in the curriculum to teach what I feel is important,” Lilly said. “Some things may seem very basic, but I feel like in today’s culture and climate, there are things that need to be addressed that we don’t really take time to address.”
Currently, peer counseling students are in the process of researching certain topics that they feel are relevant to the student body of CCHS. Among these topics are vaping, unhealthy relationships and teen pregnancy.
“My team is working on vaping, mainly to show why it’s bad for you,” freshman Julia Deen said. “A lot of people think that it’s just water vapor, but it’s not. There’s dangerous chemicals, even cancer-causing chemicals, just things that are not good for a person overall. People also think that [vaping] is safer than smoking cigarettes, which it isn’t, [the health effects of] one vape is actually worth about 20 cigarettes.”
“I joined peer counseling mainly because I felt like I wanted to help people.”
Once finished with these projects, they plan to visit personalization classes and give presentations on the information they’ve found, and spread awareness of these topics among the student body as a preventative measure.
“The objective [of these projects] is to bring awareness to some things that people aren’t really aware about,” sophomore Kathleen Surin said. “[My group is] doing teen pregnancy. It’s important because young adults can end up losing their lives to it. You can get different kinds of illnesses, even anxiety, just based on being a teen parent, and not a lot of people really know about it.”
Peer counselors will also be involved in many campus-based events during the school year, such as Red Ribbon Week, a drug and violence awareness campaign held nationally in October. In addition to this, peer counselors are also involved in mentoring new students through a pairing system.
“I joined peer counseling mainly because I felt like I wanted to help people,” Deen said. “I wanted to be a leader, and learn how to help others and be a better version of myself.”
Photo by Joseph Sturgeon