South Orangetown Central School District

On November 14, sixth-grade Explore classes took part in an interactive lesson on community activism led by members of the brand-new South Orangetown Middle School Peer Leaders program.

The SOMS pilot program launched this past spring, with Tappan Zee High School Peer Leaders training 50 newly-inducted National Junior Honor Society members. This year, those eighth-grade Peer Leaders trained a new team of TZHS juniors advised by Andy DiDomenico to serve as partners for the SOMS program. Together, mixed teams of eighth- and eleventh-graders are visiting sixth-grade classrooms four times throughout the year to present lessons they’ve developed.

The plan is to expand the program for next year with an application process open to all rising eighth-graders in the spring. SOMS advisors Chris Rastelli, Kristine Condon and James Amandola say that self-motivated students who work hard, lead by example and engage in meaningful community service can be strong role models for peers and younger students.

“This a great opportunity to teach kids about leadership, which is comprised of two parts: relationships and influence,” explains Mr. Rastelli. “We asked students to think back to when they were in sixth-grade and if they had made a mistake they regret. Nearly all of them raised their hands. Well, the sixth-graders they’re working with have made or may be thinking about making those same mistakes. By bridging the gap and building personal connections, Peer Leaders can help influence students to make better choices.”

With their first lesson complete, the SOMS and TZHS Peer Leader teams will use what they learned from their experience to refine their approach for upcoming sessions. The next lesson, on the Roadmap to Success, is scheduled for January 31.

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SOMS Peer Leaders present to sixth-graders