Peer Helpers tackle AHS campus issues

Published 12:50 am Thursday, March 21, 2019

Peer Helpers at Andalusia High School held their first ever F.O.C.U.S. rally Wednesday.

Charlotte Spurlin said that the students have been preparing for this since January.

“Our Peer Helpers went to Foley because they were putting on the same program,” Spurlin said. “They were able to see which topics they wanted to present on.”

Spurlin said that the students decided which topics to talk about based on their perceptions of issues on the Andalusia campus.

“We wanted to include things that were issues on our campus,” Spurlin said. “We also wanted to make sure that we included things that the students needed to hear, like for seniors we had Sharyn Smith come and talk about ‘Real life’ problems like budgeting, taxes and insurance.”

One thing that Spurlin wanted to incorporate in the program was community involvement.

“We didn’t want to have to spend money for speakers to come in and talk,” Spurlin said. “So we asked people from around the community to speak to the students.”

The program included Frank Shaffer speaking about See Something, Say Something; the Council of Substance Abuse speaking about the opioid epidemic; Advanced EMS speaking about Narcan; and the Andalusia Police Department speaking on drunk driving. Representatives of the Alabama National Guard and Comfort Care Hospice also spoke.

“We wanted to call all of these people and ask them to come have a booth because I felt like these kids needed to hear this information,” Spurlin said. “Like Genny Lee is here from Comfort Care Hospice, not only to talk about Comfort Care, but to talk about community service and how important that is. I mean community service is a big deal on our campus, so for her to come and talk about the different businesses where they provide community service is a big deal.”

Spurlin said that there are only three schools in the state that provide these types of rallies actually on their own campus.

“We usually go to the different F.O.C.U.S. rallies that the Alabama Department of Public Health puts on in Talladega and the University of Alabama,” Spurlin said. “We tried to do one last year that was at the First Baptist Church, but there weren’t enough people that showed up so we did not get to reach as many students. With it being on our campus, we are able to reach 500-plus kids.”

Students changed classrooms and topics every 45 minutes.

“We have 50 Peer Helpers, so we had 25 groups of two that went into the different classrooms and led presentations,” Spurlin said. “They talked about healthy relationships, self esteem, suicide awareness, social media etiquette, teen stress and anxiety and electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

Spurlin said that every classroom she went in to, the students were very attentive.

“Every pair of Peer Helpers that I talked to said that the students have been paying attention,” Spurlin said. “It is important that we let the students lead these types of things, because I firmly believe that when a student or peer is teaching a subject, then the other students are more likely to listen.”

Without the administration, Spurlin said that they would not have been able to accomplish this rally.

“So many schools would like to do something like this on their campus,” Spurlin said. “But administration shuts them down. I just want to give a huge thank you to our administration and Dr. Shakespeare for letting us do this, and having the trust in me to work things out and change the bell schedule. It is truly amazing to have an administration that is loving and caring towards the students and wants them to be well rounded not only intellectually, but emotionally as well.”