Peer Listener Program to Dissolve Following Departure of Director Nicole Jeter

The Peer Listener Program will be dissolved at the end of the 2022-2023 school year following the departure of Nicole Jeter, supervisor of the Peer Listener Program. Jeter’s role as the Director of Wellness and Prevention Education will be removed next year, leaving the program without suitable adult leadership.

Founded in September 2021, the Peer Listener Program comprises Uppers and Seniors who receive Certified Peer Educator Training through the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Afterwards, Peer Listeners are equipped to provide helpful listening, support, allyship, and wellness education to their peers in a confidential environment.

“The Peer Listeners aim to support new students transition to PA, destigmatize asking for help, provide wellness education, encourage community building, and allyship. The program was founded to support students at PA, connect students to Sykes Wellness Center when needed and provide peer to peer education… We’ve also provided drop-in hours from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Pearson. This aimed to provide an open space for students to have snacks, meet with their peers and seek support,” wrote Jeter in an email to The Phillipian.

Peer Listener Yasmine Tazi ’24 expressed her disappointment towards the program’s dissolution. Tazi spoke upon the subtlety of the nature of the program and hopes to gain better support for mental health issues on campus. 

“[Being a Peer Listener has] been great. The training has been extremely useful, the Peer Listener Program is very well crafted… [But] there’s a lot of things going on with the program right now because our director is losing their position. The position is literally being canceled, which is also really concerning for mental health as a whole at Andover… and this has been really hard because we have been struggling to find an adult whose position is compatible with the Peer Listener Program,” said Tazi.

Tazi continued, “We’re not directly affiliated with Sykes, because the program is a separate entity and our objective was to offer alternatives to the counseling programs… We’re not a club so a faculty advisor would not make sense. We’re trying to work it out. It’s really just an issue of having adults supporting the program on campus next year. The students are all willing to do the work, and so it’s been really disappointing.”

Michelle Yao ’23, who has been a Peer Listener for two years, conveyed similar feelings of frustration. While she acknowledged that there are areas of improvement for the role as Peer Listeners, she believes the administration did not provide clear guidelines about the agency of the Peer Listener Program.

“I’m very sad, disappointed, and frustrated that it’s being dissolved because I feel like there was a lot of untapped potential we could have gone into given more time and better organization. And I acknowledge that both students and the administration have some blame in this, because as students, I feel like we weren’t able to uphold the responsibility or expectations [we were given]… Everyone agrees, we could have done better at marketing… But at the same time, the administration did not do a good job of giving guidance or letting us know exactly how much agency we had in the program for us to step up and take on that responsibility,” said Yao.

Yao pointed out the administrations’ lack of promotion for the program. The Peer Listeners program had limited platforms to reach students. 

“A lot of the time, even though [the administration] says we are an organization with administrative support, I feel like we don’t necessarily receive that. For example, they said they would give us a PANet page, but I don’t know when that ever happened and, to be frank, that wouldn’t be as accessible. I feel like we’re prioritized less in any type of conversation. When you talk about, ‘Here’s a platform for student leaders or peer advisors who provide aid,’ EBI seniors, proctors, prefects, they all receive those platforms while we are treated more separately, and I wish that we could have gotten more of those resources,” said Yao.

Although the future of the Peer Listener Program remains uncertain, Tazi reminded students that Peer Listeners will remain a student support system on campus. She encouraged students to seek support from Peer Listeners if needed, even if the official program was dissolved.

“If not next year, then the year after, we’ll be able to re-implement the program… [But] the Peer Listeners are still here… We may not be called Peer Listeners anymore, but we’re still there. There’s still the Class of ’24 Peer Listeners and people can reach out to us whenever they need to. We have been trained, we have experience and we love to listen to people and help as much as we can. Our posters are all around campus, people know our faces, and we’re there if people need us,” said Tazi.

Editor’s Note: The Phillipian reached out to Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, but did not receive a response.