P.E.P : Peers Empowering Peers

The P.E.P. (Peers Empowering Peers) program evolved from a pilot program named Y.A.P. (Youth Assisting Peers) that was run at Lester B. Pearson High School, Aldershot High School and Q.E. Park High School in Burlington and Oakville, Ontario. The pilot was run between December 1997 and March 1998. The program was written by Ray Pidzamecky, M.S.W., Co-Director of Lifecycle Counselling/Parent Watch and Susan Kozbor, Substance Abuse Nurse for the Region of Halton Health Department.

The focus of the Y.A.P. program was as follows : A number of things quickly became apparent as the pilot program continued: The decision to have senior students (grades 12 to O.A.C.) inservice grade 9's was in fact an empowering tool that allowed a number of grade 9 students to express their fears and concerns in ways that they were never able to before. The grade 9's overwhelmingly expressed the following opinions :

As a result of the comments and topics generated by the grade 9's and current Addiction Research Foundation Statistics, we believe that drug prevention programs have not, for the most part, been successful. As a result of drugs now being a significant part of our youth's culture, we believe that the focus should be both on abstinence and harm reduction.

It would appear that students find peer mentors to be a more effective medium than adult educators with regard to current social issues. The issue of drugs was not the most important topic of discussion for the grade 9 students. Rather, drugs are only one part of the larger culture that students find themselves dealing with. Therefore, we have taken the next step an created the P.E.P. program. The P.E.P. program is an attempt to offer the broadest base of discussion pertaining to youth issues.

P.E.P. (Peers Empowering Peers) : A Senior Led Peer Education Program

Target: Grade 9 students

Objectives: Strategy:

To achieve the above objectives by utilizing senior students to communicate information, share opinions and respond to questions from grade 9 students under the supervision of social workers.

Selection of Peer Leaders/Educators:

Criteria: Cross reprensentation of grade 12 to OAC students who have familiarity and/or comfort in discussing selected issues. The students are perceived as "social" leaders and respected by their peers. A minimum of 3 senior boys and 3 senior girls per grade 9 class.

Process: School Social Worker, in conjunction with Heads of Student Services, Physical Education and interested teachers will select potential seniors

Student Leader Training

The School Social Workers to meet with selected students for one class of training.


Class Outline for grade 9's


Ray Pidzamecky M.S.W. & Penny Smith M.S.W. Ground rules: sensitive issues, speak for yourself only, don't name names, ask questions for yourself, seniors will not respond to personal questions unless they choose to do so, attendance taken by teacher at the start of the class, then teacher will leave. Although we cannot guarantee confidentiality, you are encouraged to not mention anyone's name outside the class. Everyone is permitted an opinion.

Seniors Introduce Themselves: Name and grade

Break Up Into Three Smaller Groups To Discuss Topics:

Break students into small groups to discuss 7 topic areas. Each student will be encouraged to write one question on a piece of paper with regards to the 7 topics. Questions will be read out loud to seniors by social worker.

Senior girls inservice gr. 9 girls (discussion from female perspective). Senior boys inservice gr. 9 boys (discussion from male perespective). Senior girls inservice gr. 9 boys (discussion from female perspective). Senior boys inservice gr. 9 girls (discussion from male perspective)
Top 7 Topics To Discuss With Grade 9's (Write on blackboard before class breaks into three small groups)

Compile List of Issues

Back into large group. Large Group Discussion (Social Worker reads questions from pieces of paper). Question and answer interaction. If grade 9's are slow to begin, senior students start off discussion.

Regional Police Service High School Liaison Officer Inservice On Harassment/Discrimination

All of the grade 9 students will receive an inservice for one period on harassment/discrimination. This topic is of particular importance because of the incidents of date rape, assault, and harassment that occurs amongst our young people today. This portion of P.E.P. is a concerted effort to help grade 9's empower themselves and reduce levels of risk and harm.

Grade 9 Assembly

Welcome and Review of P.E.P.: Social Worker

Yes/No Warm-up Activity:

Police officers interviewed on their impressions of grade 9's and their issues
Social Worker to interview officers

Personal stories and perspectives on issues:

At least four senior students to speak (2 from each gender). Also have one female student read "Death of an innocent".

Gender statement activity: Panel discussion with senior students:

Social worker to interview senior students
Request for feedback from grade 9's, seniors and teachers at assembly.

Wrap up & thank you. Social Workers.

Comments of students

I liked the idea that we got the chance to talk to the OAC, 11, 12's about problems that they might have gone through. I'm glad because they are from our school as well and know about the stuff that goes around and it's easier because they can give us advice about the situation. I'm also glad because they have us some helpful advice, because we have a lot in common with them because some of them might be our friends or because they related more to the "students" than the teachers and it's more helpful.

I felt it was really helpful in some ways, it was fun, it wasn't really serious like taking notes and stuff, but yet it was. It was a good idea to have students talk to students because they understand more because sometimes older people don't realize that kids our age are actually going through some serious issues. They think we are so innocent when we are not. It helped us, as grade 9's to get to know older students. I think it was a good idea to talk about these issues. It would be a good idea to do this next year for the new grade 9's. I thought the seniors coming in to talk to us this year for health was a really good idea. I was thinking before class "why do we have to learn about drugs again?" But I found it very informative, and I think they should do this every year for the gr. 9's. One thing I think we should have done, is mix the girls & boys class and have the senior girls and boys come talk to us together. I really had fun talking to these people and I think the gr. 9's might have made a few new friends.

Peers Empowering Peers
Lifecycle Counselling
1011 Upper Middle Rd east, suite 1415
Oakville, Ontario L6H 5Z9
Telephone : (905) 319-9026
FAX : (905) 319-9022
e-mail : lifecycle@sympatico.ca