The Peer Education program is supported by a foundation created by Tom and Pam O’Neil, with the consultation of Dr. Charles Deutsch of the Harvard School of Public Health. The program was created in memory of their 17 year old son, Christopher, who was killed in 1992 in what is often described as a drunk driving “accident”. These “accidents” are preventable. The goal of Peer Education is to promote healthy decision making by addressing attitudes that often lead to unhealthy risks.
Here at Calvert Hall, Anne Hilgartner established the first class of Peer Educators in 1994. She shaped the program into one in which the students themselves foster a culture that reflects our school’s values. Since 2013, Joey Atas has been overseeing the program.
More than 20 years after its establishment, the program still strives to increase awareness about the positive or negative impact that a single decision can have on someone’s life. The intent is not to prescribe specific behaviors, but rather to encourage critical thinking and discussion among our students. This presence of peers as teachers provides a model of how to have constructive and thoughtful discussions on a variety of topics.
“The success of the program, since its inception, has been due to the dedication of the peer educators and their unique ability to establish strong relationships with their fellow students.” -Joey Atas
The Role of Peer Educators
The Peer Educators serve as strong role models to our freshmen class. These upper-class students are a diverse group of leaders who dedicate a significant amount of time to their younger peers. Training for the peer educators is an on-going process including an overnight retreat and weekly team meetings that begin in September and continue through March. Teams of three peer educators then meet regularly with the freshmen, discussing issues specific to the life of freshmen.
The key factor in all Peer Education lessons is health and making healthy decisions.
Mr. Joseph Atas, a proud alumnus of Calvert Hall College High School '03, serves as one of the school counselors. Mr. Atas is a graduate of Duke University (Bachelor of Arts) and Loyola University (Masters of Education). In addition to serving as a school counselor for students whose names begin with letters L-R, Mr. Atas is the varsity tennis coach, coordinator for the Peer Education Program, and the Adviser to the members of "The Hall's" chapter of the National Honor Society.
University of Maryland - B.A. Johns Hopkins University - M.S.
After graduating from Calvert Hall (2007), Mr. Ford earned a B.A. degree, with honors, in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.S. degree in Education from the Johns Hopkins University. At the University of Maryland, Mr. Ford was a teaching assistant, student teacher, and tutor in the English Department and the Honors College, but began his professional teaching career in the Teach for America program, teaching Language Arts in a middle school in East Baltimore for two years after training in a Philadelphia high school. At Calvert Hall, Mr. Ford teaches Honors English I, English III, and Honors World Literature and serves as the Moderator of the Freshman Class, a Peer Education Moderator, and an Irish Culture Club Moderator. Mr. Ford loves being back at Calvert Hall and, in particular, having the opportunity to share his passion for literature, reading, and writing with his students and continuing to learn with them through active, class-wide discussion and analysis.
Mr. Peter Frein
La Salle University - B.A. University of Scranton - M.S.
Loyola University Maryland - B.A.
A Peer Educator's Story
Being a Peer Educator is rewarding because I am able to see the difference that we make in the decision making skills of our freshmen. During class, we facilitate discussion about challenges that the students may face during high school. We use our own personal experiences of dealing with problems to help normalize and explain our shared high school experiences. But the Peer Educators are not always the source of insight. My favorite discussion came out of our “Speak Up” lesson in which we explored the factors that prevent students from stepping in to stop bullying situations. During the lesson, Josh, a quiet freshman student shared a personal story with the class about a time when he stopped a fight at his middle school. Every student in the class, including me, benefitted from Josh’s moving story.
Calvert Hall College, a Lasallian Catholic college preparatory school, prepares a diverse community of young men to achieve their full potential utilizing their unique talents. Through excellent academic and extracurricular programs led by innovative and dedicated educators, our students become confident men with the ethical foundation for service, independent thinking,and responsible leadership. Inspired by the faith and zeal of St. John Baptist de LaSalle, our students develop a respect for others as part of an inclusive, lifelong Calvert Hall brotherhood as Men of Intellect, Men of Faith and Men of Integrity.