South Orangetown Central School District

On January 3, more than 80 seventh- and eighth-grade Peer Leaders led a community activism lesson during sixth-grade Explore classes.

“We developed an interactive board game with questions to help the sixth-graders learn about community activism and to help us connect personally with them,” explained eighth-grade Peer Leader Alex D.

Ciara H.’s group took a different approach. “We started out with showing the sixth-graders a video on community activism and then broke out into smaller groups so they could develop statements on what community activism means to them,” she said. “Then, they wrote them down on Post-it notes, then we have a relay race to stick the Post-it notes on a poster board.”

But the core purpose of the event was to build relationships and community, according to Peer Leader advisor Chris Rastelli. “The main point of today’s meeting was to make a memorable connection between the sixth-graders and the older students.” said Rastelli, who shares advisor duties with Kristine Condon. “You never know when the younger students may seek out their Peer Leader. It’s important for them to develop strategies to make themselves memorable during these sessions.”

The Community Activism/Peer Leadership Club is in its second year at SOMS. To join, sixth-grade students must complete an application, attend informational meetings, receive a teacher endorsement and write an essay on what they believe peer leadership and community activism looks like to them. Additional eligibility requirements for seventh-grade applicants include two teacher endorsements, an explanation of what they will offer to the club, and examples of leadership roles in which they have served over the past year. The application process is held each spring for club membership the following school year.

Upcoming Peer Leadership workshops will focus on kindness and digital citizenship.

Peer Leaders in sixth grade Explore class