Building a better school environment with trickle-down peer leadership

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If you want to drive home an important message about community building to middle schoolers, who better to deliver that message than confident teenagers from just down the road at the high school?

That’s exactly what happened on June 5 when student volunteers from BCHS brought leadership training from the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) into the middle school to help students in grades 6-8 gain confidence and skills of their own to help reduce conflict and prejudice in the school community. The high schoolers led groups of 15-22 students in various activities specially designed for middle schoolers to gain better self-awareness and an understanding of personal identities and stereotypes.

The high school students were trained as peer leaders by experts from the local NCBI affiliate earlier this year. Before their debut presenting to the BCMS students, they also prepared with a refresher course courtesy of BCMS Principal Mike Klugman and Coordinator of Inclusive Practices and School Climate Allan Gadsden.

“The students met with Mr. Klugman and me to discuss the training and review their NCBI materials before going into the classroom,” said Gadsden.

With teachers and counselors present, they gathered in circles and smaller focus groups to discuss acceptance, differences, and obstacles that middle schoolers often face. The ultimate goal of the NCBI peer leadership training is to overcome barriers of racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and other forms of prejudice that can interfere with educational opportunities.

“We called them ‘kindness micro-assemblies,’” said Principal Klugman. “Every student at the middle school took part in the micro-assemblies during Homebase.”

Thank you to our student volunteers and peer leaders who spent the day at the middle school. They included:

  • Marwa Al Essa
  • Stella Apuzzi
  • Sabrina Aiezza
  • Kieran Barnes
  • Gabrielle Crellin
  • Maeve Conway
  • Jeremy Cintron-Ortiz
  • Joy Dzigba
  • Bri Fabian
  • Kripa Hongalgi
  • Amelia Kuhn
  • Kyla Levin
  • Makaya McCann
  • Johanna Radcliffe
  • Lulu Umar
  • Lili-Marie Suich
  • Jevonni Taylor

“Many of these high school students will continue to be a part of the NCBI cohort next year,” said Gadsden, who has coordinated the NCBI leadership training. “The hope is that some of the eighth graders will join the NCBI training next year at the high school and eventually return to the middle school as peer leaders themselves.”