"There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn't."
Earlier this month, Racquel Baldeo '21 emailed all current students at Brooks the preceding quote, from The Fault in our Stars author John Green, along with another from psychologist Erik Erikson: "Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that the better for us all."
Her outreach — kicking off a series of weekly inspiring notes to the community on behalf of the new Peer Advisor Program — was shared in hopes that "these quotes can make us all realize that we are bigger than any struggles that we may face and [that] you can find hope and peace in yourself and others," Baldeo wrote.
Students helping students is, after all, the mission of the PA program, which promotes student mental health. It began with the start of the school year in September and has been making inroads ever since.
Eight students belong to the group and meet once a week with their advisor, Director of Student Wellness Steph Holmes, for coaching on how to support individual classmates who reach out to them and to work on school-wide initiatives aiming to reduce stigma associated with seeking emotional help.
Each peer advisor applied and was selected for the program following Certified Peer Educator training last year in their Self in Community classes. Members include:
- Racquel Baldeo
- Marin Cormier
- Emma Houlihan
- Brianna O'Neill
- Elizabeth Packard
- Anya Sanchorawala
- Emma Tiedmann
- Tyler Whitney-Sidney
"The vision of the Peer Advisor program is to strengthen mental and emotional health awareness at Brooks and to expand the accessibility of support," said Holmes.
The group got to know new students specifically, as well, at the start of school. They held meetings with the third form to introduce the program and talk about settling into life at Brooks.
"I believe the school should have a resource in which students support students by applying their personal experiences in order to give advice and encouragement," said Elizabeth Packard, who began collaborating with Holmes last year to create this program and get it off the ground. "I have struggled with mental health in the past, so I wanted to support my peers and try to destroy the mental health stigma on the community level."
Through self-care activities, wellness challenges and self-love reminders, Packard said she hopes that the Peer Advisors will make an impact on individuals' mental health and the school community's attitudes. "I want the Peer Advisors to become a resource that all students view as accessible, supportive, and encouraging."
So far, it's working. "I have heard from a number of students who see me for counseling that conversations with PAs have been helpful to them," Holmes reported. "It's a helpful program for students because they are most likely to lean on their peers for emotional support and these students are trained, and equipped, to provide support effectively and appropriately."
That ability to relate comes easily to Marin Cormier '21. She wanted to be a part of the program because during her time at Brooks, she said, "I have gone through hard times and I wished I had someone to talk to on a more casual level."
And as she's helping others, she said she's learning, too. "The biggest thing I have taken away during the training is that each person handles situations differently," Cormier noted. "Each person handles stress, conflict, and emotions differently so it is important that we learn tools we can apply to any situation."
As the Peer Advisors continue to look for ways to reach out to fellow students in-person and online, they're enjoying the momentum they've created so far. "When Ms. Holmes shared with the Peer Advisor group that one of the wellness emails we sent every Sunday night really helped a student who was feeling overwhelmed by the week and their stress load," Cormier said, "I really felt we had made a difference."
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