Thursday, March 26, 2009

The PEERS Project

A club that I was really involved with in high school is The PEERS Project or more commonly known as PEERS. PEERS is an acronym for Peers Educating and Encouraging Relationship Skills. In this group we have Peers Educating Peers (PEP) sessions where we will go in and talk to 6th through 10th graders. What do we talk about? Abstinence. The group motto is "Abstain from sex to Attain your goals." However we also talk about other forms of abstinence. Abstinence from sex, drugs, alcohol, and other things which can have a negative influence on your life.

For the PEP sessions, we have a packet of information to go over. A lot of the packet would seem boring to the students, so we would just pick out a few main things and then use our own ideas to fill the rest of the time. Many times we will share with the class about situations that we have been in and mistakes that we have made hoping that this will open their eyes, so they can avoid these things. Sharing with them also breaks down a barrier, so they feel comfortable talking to us. If they are going through a similar situation to one of the stories shared, they can go to that person and get some advice.

One of our presentations opened the eyes of a 6th grade girl. After the presentation, she came up and asked what someone should do if they were being sexually abused. We told her that they should talk to someone about getting them removed from the situation. Later we found out that this was about her. She had been removed from her parents' home and put with her grandparents because she was receiving this abuse from her father. Now she was getting it from her grandfather too. Our presentation allowed her to talk to someone to get removed from this home too. She has recently been adopted by her loving foster parents and having a much better life.

Not only has PEERS had a positive effect on the students but also the community as a whole. Before the program started, our county was one of the highest in the state for teen pregnancies. Implementation of this group has dropped our numbers significantly. The state saw this change and wanted to know how we did it. They are now watching our program to see how other counties can also benefit from this program.

PEER mentors have to watch their actions in and out of the classroom. If you give a presentation to a class, and then some of the students see you later going against what you just said, you will lose all credibility with them. They will probably let their friends know about it too. We want to make sure that we keep that trust with the students because they are looking up to us whether we're doing good or bad.

The only way to stay out of trouble with the temptations of drugs, sex, and alcohol is to avoid it all together. Sex is something that should be saved for a marriage. Stay pure until then. I'd like to leave you with a quote that a couple of my friends came up with, and we later had it put on a t-shirt to wear for our presentations. "Purity rocks my socks off... but keeps my clothes on!"