The O'Neil Peer Education Program
Since 1994 upperclassmen at Mount Saint Joseph High School teach freshmen classes. This program is referred to as the O'Neil Peer Education Program. The program is named after and funded by the Christopher O'Neil Memorial Foundation. This foundation was established to honor Chris, a Loyola High School student, who lost his life in a drunk-driving related accident. The O'Neil family's dream is to help prevent similar tragedies through the funding of effective prevention programs.
This year juniors and seniors will serve as "peer educators" and lead open, honest discussions about health-related issues. Topics include respect, depression, and decisions connected to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
The O'Neil Program is based on research findings which state that peer-lead instruction is an effective method of preventing adolescents from engaging in unhealthy behaviors.
A team of counselors, teachers, and administrators select and train the peer educators. These students are selected because they possess the ability to communicate in a genuine manner. As a group, they represent the diversity of the freshman class.
After making a commitment to the program, the peer educators receive intensive training. On a retreat, the peer educators have an opportunity to interact with one another, share their concerns about this undertaking and practice presenting a lesson. They have a tremendous amount of materials to help them prepare for their lessons. The students are divided into teams. Each team is comprised of two students and has a counselor as an advisor.
Once in the freshman seminar classes, the teams do more than merely present educational information. Using role-plays, small group activities, games, and video clips, they generate discussions, ideas, and alternatives.
Each team of peer educators teaches four freshmen classes. By the end of the 4 classes, a bond has developed between many of the freshmen and their peer educators, providing the freshmen with a friendly, familiar upperclassman to whom they can turn to for further assistance or advice.
Mount Saint Joseph’s Student Assistance (SASJ) is a structured, organized, intervention program designed to identify and address students who might be troubled by physical, chemical, emotional, spiritual, familial and/or educational problems. It is designed to impact the entire school community by identifing and addressing students’ problems that manifest themselves in school. For more information on SASJ, click here.