School to revive peer mentoring program

B y Jaime Thomas

When teenagers are upset, they don’t go to the nearest adult for advice — they talk to their peers. That thinking is the basis for a program called Natural Helpers, which is sponsored by the Washington County Council for Prevention.

Students from Granville High School will attend a conference at Silver Bay on Lake George on Nov. 15 and 16 to partake in the program.

“I think it will be a really great program for students and staff,” said school counselor Liz Mulvaney. “It could create a nice school climate.”

Mulvaney said about 20 students and several counselors and teachers are signed up for the two-day, overnight training. The students, who range from grades eight to 12, were selected by their peers based on a schoolwide survey.

The students, who are recognized as approachable by their peers, will be building on skills they’re already exhibiting.

“They will learn how to recognize when other students need help, through simple strategies like who to send others to,” Mulvaney said. While the program existed years ago, it hasn’t been offered in a while, so Mulvaney said they’re starting fresh at this point.

On its website, the Council for Prevention describes students who become “natural helpers” as “recognized amongst their peers as being natural leaders, and people they gravitate to for support.  Natural Helpers aren’t professional therapists; rather, they are expert listeners and attempt to help their friends figure out their own issues by talking them through.”

Mulvaney thinks the issues the program addresses have been around for ages; young people have always tended to talk to their friends before anyone else.

She thinks the initiative will build support in the school.

“It teaches students effective ways of taking care of their friends and themselves,” Mulvaney said.

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