The Development of Peer Education at Calvert Hall

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. It 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 decisions by addressing attitudes that often lead to unhealthy risks.
 
At Calvert Hall, in 1994, Anne Hilgartner established the first class of Peer Educators.  Since that time, she has shaped the program into one in which the students themselves foster a culture that reflects our school’s values.  In 2013, Joey Atas assumed the responsibility of overseeing the program with the assistance of Kevin Ford, Kevin Hattrup, and Meaghan Tracey, and eleven classroom faculty observers.
 
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. In addition, the presence of peers as teachers provides a model of how to have constructive and thoughtful discussions on a variety of topics.
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The Role of Peer Educators

The Peer Educators serve as strong role models for the freshmen class.They consist of a diverse group of leaders who dedicate a significant amount their time to their peers. Training for the peer educators is an on-going process involving 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, instructing and discussing issues of interest to the freshmen. The key factor in all Peer Education lessons is health and making healthy decisions. Some topics include: the six kinds of health, effective decision making, appropriate use of social media, speaking up, dealing with loss, and alcohol and other drugs. 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 the freshmen.

The Peer Education Faculty Team

List of 4 members.

  • Joseph Atas 

    School Counselor, Director of Peer Education
    Duke University - B.A.
    Loyola University - M.Ed
    Calvert Hall Class of 2003
    Bio
  • Kevin Ford 

    University of Maryland - B.A.
    Johns Hopkins University - M.S.
    Calvert Hall Class of 2007
    Bio
  • Kevin Hattrup 

    Loyola University - B.A.
    University of Notre Dame - M.F.A.
    Bio
  • Meaghan Tracey 

    School Counselor
    Loyola University - B.A.
    Loyola University - M.Ed.
    Bio

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.