Teens Learn About Healthy Relationships and Peer Leadership
Last week 19 young people went through REACH’s four-day Summer Training Program. These students are part of the Waltham High School Peers Against ViolencE (PAVE) peer leadership program, a collaboration between REACH and Waltham High School (WHS). During the school year, the WHS peer leaders meet once a week after school to organize events and campaigns to promote heathy relationships and prevent dating abuse in their school and community.
Summer Training, which happens right after new peer leaders are accepted into the program, is an opportunity for the group to come together, get to know each other better and learn about dating abuse and healthy relationships. This year, Day One focused on leadership and healthy relationships. The peer leaders came up with their own personal definition for a healthy relationship and we talked about how everyone has the right to boundaries in relationships and friendships. Our partner from Waltham High School, one of the School Adjustment Counselors also joined us to lead a “Challenge Activity,” where the peer leaders explored issues around trust, communication, and teamwork.
In Days Two and Three we focused on healthy relationships, dating violence, and how to support a friend in an unhealthy relationship. We had several REACH staff members join us to talk about REACH’s services and approach. Finally on Day Four the new peer leaders got a chance to apply their knowledge and practice their public speaking skills by presenting on a piece of media (song, slam poem, book) of their choice and the messages in it about relationships. REACH’s Child and Adolescent Therapist also joined us to lead an art activity through which each peer leader decorated a large puzzle piece focusing on the themes for the week (leadership, teamwork, healthy relationships, boundaries, messages about relationships in the media, and how to help a friend). All of the pieces came together to represent the work that we’ve done over the week and how each person’s individual perspective contributes to a group.
One of the most exciting aspects of Summer Training is that it promotes youth leadership. This year, for the third year in a row, returning peer leaders partnered with REACH’s Youth Education Specialist in planning and leading the entire Summer Training program. Overall it’s a great chance for us to connect and get on the same page so we can start the school year strong. As one of our peer leaders shared “I liked being able to bond with people that I otherwise wouldn’t talk to. I learned so much about domestic violence.”
We are grateful to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office which helped to fund this work.