Sophia Anastasakis ‘20
Building Community at BHS with Peer Leadership
What started out as a few advisors and a handful of students with a desire to make a difference in the Bethel High School community has evolved into something even greater. After its pilot year in 2018, Bethel High’s peer leadership program is expanding as it continues to work towards its goal of making BHS a more positive environment for all students.
Peer leadership is a program that was established in 2018 when a former BHS english teacher demonstrated interest in providing students with the opportunity to seek out mentorship from their peers. This year, the peer leadership class has expanded from a small group of students to a committed group of thirteen student leaders.
Julia Taborsak, adviser of the peer leadership class, took on the role of teaching the course this year and believes that the work of peer leaders is meant to leave an impact that is not limited to just the classroom.
“Peer leadership is something that benefits the students in the class, the students who are not in the class and the students in our community as a whole,” said Taborsak.
To ensure that all students have the chance to be heard and uplifted, the selected student leaders represent different backgrounds and personality types.
“These are all kinds of kids. These are not just really outgoing and Type A personality kids but it’s also students who are really skilled listeners. The students in this class are the kind of kids who can support someone who needs help,” said Taborsak.
At the beginning of the course, peer leaders discover their strengths and weaknesses as a leader, while also identifying what kind of leader they are. These skills allow them to become successful student mentors later on in the year, giving them the tools needed to create substantial change in the BHS community.
The program has brought in an increased number of student leaders, who all share a common desire to elevate other students who are struggling.
Nicolette Santangelo, a senior at BHS, is a peer leader this year. She applied to become a peer leader after learning about the course to fulfill her passion for helping others.
“A lot of people might struggle and feel like they don’t have anybody they can count on, and I wanted to be able to do that for someone. Everyone needs that ‘someone’,” said Santangelo.
Many of this year’s peer leaders have felt isolated at one point during their high school experience and are determined to make sure other students in need can seek guidance and support from their own peers.
“I want to help everyone in the school in any way that I can,” said Amanda Tuccillo, a senior at BHS who is also a peer leader this year.
The peer leadership team is currently honing in on their abilities as leaders prepare for mentoring students.
For students interested in becoming a peer leader next year, there is an application process that begins at the end of the school year. Teachers may also recommend students to apply as the year progresses. In the meantime, however, students can join student ambassadors and help new BHS students become acclimated to the school environment as a way to demonstrate leadership and enhance their skills.