By Mitch Evans
After the town election this weekend, it seems only right to look at the work that our High School is doing to help educate the leaders of tomorrow. At the February 28 School Committee meeting Heather Galante, Principal at Bedford High School, introduced six representatives* of this year’s BHS Peer Leadership Program.
This program has been running for many years, in fact, committee member Mike McAllister remembers being a peer leader during his time at Bedford High. But what do today’s peer leaders learn and contribute to the school system?
Looking at the description of the program in the 2016/17 course listing, the course objectives focus on communication, effective decision making, problem solving and positive messages around student and community health, wellness, and current social issues. But in the students’ own words, this program helps them to “apply their learning to their own lives, to learn to work together even if you disagree about something and set and accomplish goals.” There are 50 places available and over 100 students applied for this year’s program. Junior and senior students are chosen via an application and interview process, which looks at individual leadership potential and an ability to impact school culture.
Our high school benefits from a diverse student community with residents from Boston, Hanscom Air Force Base, and Bedford. All three populations are represented by the program, although surprisingly there are only 6 boys in this year’s course.
The students are currently working on a whole school (staff and kids) character education campaign, with the main focus on six ethical values or pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These are standards that everyone can agree on — values that are not political, religious, or culturally biased.
The students also organize and take part in a very successful whole school Community Day, which is traditionally held before Thanksgiving each year. This year’s activities focused on ‘Celebrating Differences’ and included stress relief stations (yoga, art, and therapy dogs) kick ball, plus food and gift card donations from local restaurants and retailers. There was also a game called Fast Friends which encouraged students to engage in conversations with people they didn’t already know. This event was such a success that the staff and Peer Leaders are discussing a Community Day Part 2. As Superintendent Jon Sills commented at the end of the presentation, “thank you for all that you do. You make us very proud.”
*Helen Pulizzi, Julianna Byington, Katherine Plinney, Amy Martin, Lauren Sullivan and Seren Parikh. Plus School Committee student representative, Mary Manning.