Many school-based activities designed to promote leadership skills in youth fail to provide students with practical opportunities to develop and implement transferable skills in leadership. To be effective leaders, youth need opportunities to develop and practice these skills within a context that has personal meaning and relevance to them. As Peer Leaders, students learn about social justice issues through comprehensive training designed to address the specific issues they face each day in their schools and communities. Once trained, they work together over the course of the school year to plan and implement projects of their own choosing that they believe will promote a more respectful and inclusive school community.
The Educational Process
To be effective leaders, youth need opportunities to learn about social justice issues and to develop and refine their leadership skills. This process begins with anti-bias training for peer leaders and program coordinators. Facilitated by ADL training specialists, this 2-3 day initial training is interactive, hands-on, and designed to address the specific issues being faced by peer leaders in their schools and communities.
Following this initial training, peer leaders meet weekly as a group to continue to develop peer leaders' leadership skills and to provide peer trainers with an understanding of their roles in making justice and equity realities in the world around them.
Once this process is completed, Peer Leaders are involved in developing their own ideas, setting their own goals and working together to create unique programs that promote respect in their schools and communities.
Peer Leaders develop the knowledge, skills and motivation to effectively challenge the name-calling, put-downs, and insensitive remarks that are all-too-common occurrences in the halls of their schools. And because students have a powerful impact on one another's attitudes and behaviors, the climate of the school and community begins to change.
Peer Leaders learn the process for setting goals and creating detailed plans for action. The activities of Peer Leaders vary from school to school and often include Peer Leaders creating opportunities for their peers to talk together about the issues that deeply concern them.