Students were selected to attend the retreat by their peers. Each high school was surveyed at the end of the school year. In the survey, students were asked to identify their top issues in their schools. Then, students select up to four peers they would feel comfortable confiding in if they had a conflict or crisis. Each of the local high schools, South Bend, Raymond, Willapa Valley, Naselle and Ilwaco could bring around 10 students.
“This is the largest event TAC hosts,” Gracie Manlow, TAC/DFC Project Coordinator, said. “The students do some pretty heavy reflecting about the issues within their schools and how they can change things for the better.”
Various trainings and activities were offered throughout the weekend. This allowed students to gain skills and knowledge in the issues their peers identified as major problems in their schools. This year, the topics included: Know Your Rights: The Legal Aspects or Bullying, Safe Space: LGBTQ training and a panel on Cyberbullying.
“Students are trained on ‘how to’ assist a friend or classmate,” Manlow said. “The goal is that students will be able to identify appropriate community resources when a friend or classmate is struggling with an issue.”
For the second year in a row, TAC sponsored mini grants for the Peer Helper Retreat. Each school was asked to build a campaign focused on a major issue in their school. Students completed applications, which asked for a dollar amount of funding, and presented their projects in front of a panel of judges. Last year, TAC sponsored a tri-district drug prevention week, which featured youth motivational speaker, Scott Backovich.
“It’s a pretty amazing to see the projects the students come up with in a short amount of time,” Manlow said. “They truly care about their schools and making a positive impact on their peers.”
TAC would like to thank its many volunteers, chaperones and presenters for making the 2015 Peer Helper Retreat a success. TAC also extends thanks to the Falls Creek Retreat Center staff and the local high schools for their continued participation and support.
“We are here for the teens,” Manlow said. “We wouldn’t exist as a coalition if it weren’t for teen involvement.”