At E.P. Rock, students contribute to the school community in a thoughtful and meaningful way. For the past several years, fourth and fifth grade peer helpers have assisted younger students daily with academic and social skills, while increasing school engagement. Since starting the program informally with just a few students in 2015, participation has grown, with 42 students helping in 2017-18, and already 38 paired up with younger students this school year. That was approximately 900 volunteer hours last year alone.
Teachers nominate responsible fourth and fifth graders to become peer helpers, while kindergarten, first and second-grade teachers make requests for individual student needs or general classroom assistance. Peer helpers are paired with these students or classrooms and generally volunteer daily for 10-15 minutes. They may read books with students, practice flash cards, read social stories that encourage positive behaviors, or play games in more of a mentor role.
Fifth grade peer helper Jace Buchholz said, “I think it makes Kerry really happy when I come, and that makes me happy that I’m helping out.” The program works for everyone involved – both the peer mentors, and the students needing support, benefit from the substantial contributions made to the school climate – an empowering combination!