Christopher O'Neil Peer Education Program

Loyola Blakefield

P.O. Box 6819

Towson, MD 21285


Brennan Prodey

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Program Information

In 1993 Loyola pioneered a program of health education funded through the Christopher O'Neil foundation created by Tom and Pam O'Neil, parents of Christopher, a Loyola student who died in what is called a “drunk driving accident.” We believe these are not accidents, that they are understandable and preventable. We believe that peer education can play a significant role in educating Loyola students about risk taking, about drugs and alcohol, about when to speak out - in short, about a range of topics aimed at physical and emotional well being. The program represents the state of the art in health education today, emphasizing a broad base of topics in an interactive style led by older students whom younger students look up to. The program was developed at the Harvard University School of Public Health under the direction of Dr. Charles Deutsch who has consulted with Loyola's faculty team since the program's inception.

Each year members of the Blakefield staff review the names of every sophomore, junior and senior with the aim of choosing peer educators. The object is to put together a team of students, who are genuine and able to communicate. We also choose a group of students who are different from each other – with the hope that younger students will be able to identify with at least one member of each team. We do not ask peer educators to be models of angelic behavior. Rather we pick them because we are confident they will model how to deal directly, candidly and frankly with difficult issues. We do ask each of them not to act in ways, which would jeopardize the integrity of the Peer Education program.

A staff of nine faculty members and 12 student peer educators spend more than 40 hours each year developing health lessons and training to facilitate those lessons in the middle school and in ninth grade. Each team is composed of three students, ideally a sophomore, a junior and a senior, who work with two faculty members. Each of the four teams is assigned four lessons, three to be presented to middle school students and one for ninth graders.

Peer Education borrows time from the academic program to teach lessons in the seventh and eighth grades. In sixth and ninth grades a special guidance class is the venue by which the program reaches students at those entry levels.

Guiding Principles of Loyola Blakefield Peer Education

1. Feelings are neither good nor bad. What we do with feelings may be good or bad. In fact, even the unpleasant feelings serve a useful purpose and can be beneficial.

2. Life involves risks. Without risk-takers man would never have explored the moon, nor discovered the "new world." The issue is whether the potential gain is worth the risk.

3 Trust is the core of a friendship. Without trust we have acquaintances, not friends. And confidentiality is central to trust. There are limits, however, to what is kept confidential.

4. Stress is part of life. The aim is to learn how to handle stress rather than to deny that one has it.

5. Admitting one has a problem is the first step to dealing with it.

6. Accidents are avoidable. This does not mean that an individual has control over all of the factors that may be involved in an accident.

7. Sound mental health involves a number of factors, one of which is the ability to create options and alternatives in one’s life.

8. Personal experience may be the best teacher, but it is not the only teacher. Certain lessons are too risky to be learned through experience.

9. People learn best when they are actively involved in talking, thinking and doing.

10. The statements and the decisions we make do affect others.

11. Stereotypes limit human freedom.

12. Men and women are different but equal.

13. Every person, regardless of race, age, sex and sexual orientation, should be accorded respect as human beings.

14. The truth is that we cannot control others. I can guide, advise, counsel, warn, love, support, encourage, set limits and enforce consequences, but I cannot make another person think what I want him to think, feel what I want him to feel, or do what I want him to do. When I try to control or manipulate another person, they resent it and resist it.

15. People change their behavior not because they are told to change it, but because reason and experience persuade them to change.

16. Addiction is a primary disease. Alcoholics and other drug addicts are ill, not bad or mentally disturbed.
Psychoactive drugs present a risk to anyone who uses them.
Psychoactive drugs are not evil, but their use is risky and potentially unhealthy.
Alcohol is illegal in the State of Maryland for anyone under 21.
Drug addiction is a complex process involving both the properties of drugs and the complex proneness of drug users.
Drug addiction and physical dependence are not identical; marijuana is addictive.
Alcohol is a toxic and potentially addictive drug. It is neither wonderful nor evil.