9th Graders and Senior Mentors Bond During Virtual Peer Leadership Trip
Marquis Austin

Last week, 32 seniors and the entire ninth grade gathered on Zoom for two fun-filled afternoons of team building during the Prep School's annual Peer Leadership trip. Coordinated by Dean and English teacher Michelle Schackman and counselor James O'Tool, the Peer Leadership program connects members of the freshman class with senior mentors. These mentors will help facilitate their transition into high school. While students, faculty and staff are used to traveling to Camp Mason for two days of hiking, canoeing, campfire stories and s' mores, Ms. Schackman, Mr. O'Tool and the Peer Leaders did a stellar job bringing the cherished PS event online. 

"The purpose of the Peer Leadership trip has been for us to get to know each other," said PS Director Joanie Dean at the beginning of Wednesday's session. "When we get back, we are one unified ninth grade." What's unique about the Peer Leadership trip is its ability to bring together classmates with different interests. As Dean of the Class of 2024, math teacher Andrew Chappell told his students, "This is one of the few opportunities to socialize with people that maybe you wouldn't be socializing with otherwise." He advised them all to "embrace the differences" and view it as a chance to "learn something from the people around you." 

The trip launched on Tuesday with help from Teambuilding, an organization that facilitates team building events. Bringing as much of the Camp Mason experience to the ninth-graders as possible, in preparation for the event, attendees received s' mores kits, which came in handy when it was time to share ghost stories. Groups of students also competed to see who could come up with the most creative team names, cheers and handshakes. "It was a great opportunity for the ninth-graders to mix and meet since there are 46 new ones!" said Ms. Schackman. 

On Wednesday, everyone once again went into breakout rooms consisting of approximately eight ninth-graders and two senior Peer Leaders. Each group began by getting to know each other and then used their interests to create a coat of arms. In Group 1, Kyle K. '21, Morgan V. '21 and their mentees made the fantastic design below. They included their favorite musicians, television shows and values they aim to embody as a group, with trust being a big one. "We joined Peer Leadership because we wanted to provide incoming ninth-graders with an outlet for any questions, concerns and issues they might face going into high school," explained Kyle and Morgan. "We are able to understand these students because we were in their position not too long ago, and we hope to use our experiences to support them just as our Peer Leaders did for us." 

This year's Prep School Peer Leadership trip proved to be a success enjoyed by all. "It was really nice to see how enthusiastic everyone was about the different activities," said senior Alden W. His fellow Peer Leader, Jesse S., agreed: "It brought everyone together." Congrats to everyone involved in putting on this fantastic event!

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