Peer Group Connection Pushed to ‘06

The Peer Group Connection, a mentoring program slated to begin next fall, was postponed until the 2005-2006 school year due to a lack of fuding. The program’s application for an Abbot Grant asking for more than $20,000 was denied. Scores of Uppers applied to be Peer Group Leaders and a field 24 finalists had already been chosen when the program was cancelled for the coming school year. Modeled after a Princeton Center for Leadership Training program known as Peer Group Connection, the proposal for Andover’s mentoring system called for a pilot program in which four groups of about a dozen Lowers paired with three seniors to meet on a weekly basis to discuss the wide range of issues which high school students face. The idea was introduced to Dean of Students and Residential Life Marlys Edwards by Student Council President Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04 shortly after her election last spring. Asplundh-Smith learned of the Peer Group Connection from an article her mother had written regarding the successful implementation of such a program at the Princeton Day School in Princeton, New Jersey. Asplundh-Smith wished that Andover’s implementation would more effectively integrate Lowers, especially new Lowers, into the community and keep Seniors connected to the community and to the welfare of their peers. Supporting the implementation of a permanent, continuing peer leadership program at Phillips Academy, Ms. Edwards made clear that despite the fact that funding was denied and that a pilot program will not take place next year, she still remains “100% committed to the program.” Hoping to modify the program so that two seniors, one male and one female, rather than three, meet on a regular basis with twelve to fifteen Juniors, Ms. Edwards wants to create a program where Juniors can be mentored and counseled as they adjust to Andover life and additionally, where they can discuss other such issues including peer pressure, relationships, and academic concerns. In order to pilot such a program for Juniors beginning in the fall of 2005, Ms. Edwards commented that a “lot of hurdles” need to be cleared before this “exciting and tremendously beneficial” program is integrated into the Junior cuurriculum. Responding to the fact that the biggest of these hurdles – funding – must be resolved first, Ms. Edwards said that “I am sure that there are many alumni [who] will tend themselves to developing the sense of community that the Andover version of Peer Group Connection will foster.” Besides the need to secure a source of funding, several other issues need to be resolved prior to and during the initiation of a pilot program in the fall of 2005. Because of the fact that Juniors take a six course load, scheduling is an issue. “The pilot program will need to justify adding yet another required commitment to the already hectic ninth grade week,” Ms. Edwards said. She continued, “these sessions may have to take place during another part of the day.” In addition, several other concerns such as formulating a curriculum for the sessions and deciding whether or not academic credit will be granted to either the Seniors or the Juniors need to be addressed. A committee consisting of Interim Director of Student Activities Cynthia Efinger, Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Associate Dean of Admission Elisa Joel, Instructor in Athletics Leon Modeste, and Instructor in Biology Keith Robinson has been formed in order to assist Ms. Edwards and her office in preparing and planning the creation of this new program for Juniors.