Community helper program sees students helping students
Recent Sundre graduates of a new program designed to give students tools to help classmates cope with stresses of high school life say other schools and other students would certainly benefit from participation.
The Community Helper Training Program is a joint effort between the Sundre High School and Suicide Information and Education Services. The first-ever Sundre graduates of the program held a wrap-up party at the school last week.
The Sundre student volunteers in the program were chosen by their classmates, explained Dawne Adkins, program coordinator with Suicide Information and Education Services, which is a community-support organization based in Red Deer and funded by Alberta Health Services.
“These are the youths who have been identified by their peers as their go-to people,” said Adkins. “The way we did that was we surveyed all the students in the school and asked them, ‘Who do you go to when you have a problem, regardless of the type of problem?’ So these students are the ones whose names came up more than twice and from there they were asked if they wanted to volunteer.”
During the past six weeks, participants received training in a wide number of topics, including ethics, trust and teamwork, helping skills, dealing with crisis situations, and finding appropriate resources.
As well, they dealt with issues such as depression and suicide, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, relationships and social issues, and dealing with violence and abuse.
“We’ve worked on a variety of topics that their friends may come to them looking for information or advice about,” she said. “So what we are doing is training them not to be mini-social workers, that’s not the premise of the program, but what it is doing is really letting them have more tools in their toolboxes to be better friends.”
Grade 12 student Melissa Johnson, who serves as treasurer for the Sundre High School Students’ Union, said the program is great for the larger Sundre school community and something other schools could also benefit from.
“It would be great if everyone could be involved,” said Johnson. “Our group has membership from every grade. I think it is important for different groups to get involved, as every person could find value in the program and someone they could help.
“Community helpers really teaches youths how to assist others in dealing with many issues such as loss, peer pressure, and grief.”
Sundre High School principal Jason Drent echoed Johnson’s comments, calling the program great for the larger school community.
“From a school and administration perspective I see great value in the program,” said Drent. “Students struggle with a variety of issues so in turn they need support from multiple individuals in their lives.
“Peers have a big influence on teens in our community, so any program that can assist them in gaining positive skills to help others is huge. Building a support network is the key. It is something that will benefit all of our youth.”
Other schools in West Central Alberta will now be encouraged to host their own Community Helper Training Program, said Adkins.
“We are open to whoever would like the information,” said Adkins. “It’s been a great partnership with Sundre High. We’ve had great support from the school, and we’ve had great participation from the youths.”
Family wellness workers at individual schools would work with Suicide Information and Education Services to run Community Helper Training Programs in those schools, she said.