Mount Saint Joseph High School
The O’Neil Peer Education
Since the 1994-1995 school year, upperclassmen
at Mount Saint Joseph High School have been teaching peer
education lessons to freshmen classes.
The classes start in February and run through April. This program
is referred to as the O’Neil Peer Education Program. The program
is named after and funded by the Christopher O’Neil Memorial
Foundation. This foundation was established to honor Chris, a Loyola
High School student, who lost his life in a drunk-driving related
accident. The O’Neil family’s dream is to help prevent
similar tragedies through the funding of effective prevention programs.
Twenty juniors and seniors serve
as “peer educators” and lead open, honest discussions
about health-related issues. Topics include the risks and consequences
connected to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. The depression
and the treatment and respect of others are other topics covered
by the peer educators.
The O’Neil Program is based on research
findings which state that peer-lead instruction is an effective
method of preventing adolescents from engaging in unhealthy behaviors.
A team of counselors and administrators select
and train the peer educators. These students are selected because
they possess the ability to communicate in a genuine manner. As
a group, they represent the diversity of the freshman class.
After making a commitment to the program,
the peer educators receive intensive training in January. On a
retreat led by counselors and administrators, the peer educators
have an opportunity to interact with one another, share their concerns
about this undertaking and practice presenting a lesson. They have
a tremendous amount of materials to help them prepare for their
lessons. The students are divided into teams.
Each team is comprised of three students and has a counselor as
Once in the freshman seminar classes, the
three –member O’Neil teams do more than merely present
educational information. Using role-plays, small group activities,
games, and video clips, they generate discussions, ideas, and alternatives.
Each team of peer educators teaches a freshmen class of approximately
15 students once a week for 4 weeks and then repeats the lessons
with a second class the next 4 weeks. By the end of the 4 weeks,
a bond has developed between many of the freshmen and their peer
educators, providing the freshmen with a friendly, familiar upperclassman
to whom they can turn to for further assistance or advice.