Peer Mentor

The Power of Peer Mentoring

The Power of Peer Mentoring

Peer Support Programs, which promote the power of peer mentoring, have been operating in schools in Australia and New Zealand for many years and this concept should be promoted in a post-pandemic world as we coach youth some key mentoring skills, not only to grow their confidence, but to encourage them to become positive influencers in their local and the global community.

Significant research in Australia, involving over 2000 Year 7, 10 and 11 students highlights the value of an effectively run school Peer Support Program (2005) on school communities. As more and more research suggests that today’s young people value collaborative and consultative processes and are fiercely loyal to their peers, perhaps there will be a resurgence of Peer Mentor Programs or schools will explore at a deeper level the Vertical Tutoring System where every student is eventually trained as a Peer Mentor.

Peer Mentoring can take a variety of forms, though schools tend to have either a formal or more informal program. Some examples would include:

  • Peer Mentors, sometimes referred to as Peer Helpers, can meet once a week or once a fortnight with a group of younger students, during which time they follow a specific, structured Peer Mentor Program;
  • Peer Mentors can undertake a buddy-type, supportive and encouraging role, also meeting regularly with one, maybe two mentees, who tend to be younger students.
  • Peer Mentors can be involved in tutoring younger students e.g. literacy, specific academic/homework assistance, sports coaching;
  • Peer Mentors can be available to assist students who are feeling isolated, anxious, being bullied or unsettled in their school environment.
  • Peer Mentors can take on the role of mediators assisting students to work through conflicts.

Whatever the role of the Peer Mentor, there are some significant requirements that should be met to ensure that an internationally credible Peer Mentor Program is being run, with participants feeling safe and secure at all times. These include:

  • School Management personnel actively supporting, promoting and believing in the Program, which is regarded as a core component of the school’s holistic education program;
  • the appointment of a Program Coordinator to oversee the program;
  • careful recruitment of Peer Mentors;
  • thorough training of Peer Mentors;
  • effective ongoing training and supervision of Peer Mentors;
  • parents of Peer Mentors and Mentees supporting the Peer Mentor Program and being part of the evaluation process;
  • an effective evaluation process in place.

The pioneering work of Elizabeth Campbell and the development of her Peer Support Program in Australia a number of years ago have been inspirational. Grateful thanks are extended for her support and for allowing her resource material to be adapted for use in Mentoring Matters (formerly Youth Empowerment Seminars (YES!) Programs). The work of the Search Institute in Minneapolis (USA) and the material they have produced for the promotion of asset building in communities is also acknowledged. This work continues to profoundly influence the work of Mentoring Matters. Becoming a Peer Mentor is an awesome challenge, yet has the potential to be one of the most empowering and rewarding experiences a student can enjoy during these formative years of their lives.

Unfortunately, I have realized that we cannot completely erase all the evil from the world, but we can change the way we deal with it, we can rise above it and stay strong and true to ourselves. And, most important, we can inspire others – this is what makes us human beings, this is what can make us immortal.
Zlata Filipovic

a teenager who wrote a journal about her experiences in Sarajevo during the recent Bosnian War.