By CONNIE and LYNN BAER
One of the many wonderful facets of Grossmont High School’s counseling program is the GRC (Grossmont Resource Center), which was created in the 1990’s to provide personal and social support for students and their families. Within the GRC, the Peer Listener program is one of the ways in which students are supported by their peers.
Peer Listeners are carefully selected seniors, who are highly trained in peer support and mediation skills throughout their junior year. Peers must exhibit strong academic skills and personal/social decision-making skills. These seniors offer confidential, one-on-one support for students to create their own solutions to challenging issues; a safe space without adults or counselors; a judgement-free zone; and peer mediation.
Not surprisingly, the Peer Listeners are constantly seeking ways to support the entire Foothiller community, which was evident with the activities they planned for the week of Valentine’s Day by hosting weeklong activities with the theme, “Where Is the Love?” To prepare for the week, they created and showed a video at the winter sports assembly featuring the importance of empathy.
Peer Listeners encouraged all students and staff to participate in this kindness movement by visiting every fourth period class to discuss what it means to have empathy and to encourage students to show kindness.
They shared that studies show that kindness has many benefits including increased happiness and a healthy heart. It slows the aging process and improves relationships and connections, which indirectly boosts health. A little kindness goes a long way to help each other during the difficult challenges of life. Their hope was that everyone would look for opportunities to be kind and positive toward others and not just for one week.
During the week, bulletin notices shared statistics about how kindness can improve health and make the world a better place. During the week, they encouraged students to share a random act of kindness done to them or that they had done. Students posted stories of “Random Acts of Kindness” on the school’s ASB Instagram and then challenged students to continue looking for moments to give a random act of kindness.
The Peer Listeners offered free Valentine’s Day grams for anyone who wanted to send kind, supportive, or loving messages: 600 grams were delivered on Valentine’s Day. Also that day, students and staff could add a positive message to the “Love Meter” poster, displayed in the lower quad; small hearts with kind messages filled the heart meter.
Finally, the Peer Listeners challenged fourth period classes to a door-decorating contest to reflect the idea that showing love and kindness has more power than showing hate or negativity. History teacher Christina Alley’s period four class’ winning door celebrated the theme in unique style: the interactive door featured a student doing acts of kindness such as tying someone’s shoe, picking up a pencil dropped by someone else, and even student Sara Brooks swinging on the door.
Other inspiring doors included art teacher Susan Phillips’ “Kindness Tree,” in which kindness grew from roots of caring and the words “Foothillers nurture and grow kindness.” In the tree branches, “love,” “empathy,” “respect,” “happiness,” and “trust” grow.
English teacher Amber Garrett’s door’s theme was “Leave Footprints of Love and Kindness Wherever You Go,” and featured thoughts within hearts such as “Love for All, Hatred for None,” “You are Strong,” “You Are Enough,” “What We Think We Become” and more.
Reflecting on such a wonderful week, Peer Listener co-advisor Krista Santoro shared, “Having kindness, giving love, and showing support to each other helps create a stronger community and a safer place to learn and take risks. We are lucky to have students who look for opportunities to build an environment with these elements. And a special thank you to retired GHS Principal Bill Ashman and the La Mesa Rotary Club for caring about students and making a difference in the world by funding this amazing week.”
To learn more about GHS and the ways students and staff past and present have made a difference, visit our website at foothillermuseum.com or visit the GHS Museum Tuesday, March 3, from noon-3:30 p.m. or by appointment on Wednesdays. Contact: 619-668-6140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum.