Approximately 4 years ago, just over 200 little, round-faced 12 and 13 year olds began their high schooling journey at Kaipara College. Some, like me, were shy and scared to talk to new people, others were busy establishing their status as the “class clown,” and most were simply eager to begin the next stage in their lives. Now that those very same kids are the seniors of the school - the year 13s - many of us have elected to take part in the Peer Support Programme. The Peer Support Programme is one which has been established all over New Zealand, and focuses on creating a safe, comfortable and fun environment for new students transitioning from primary or intermediate school to high school.
On January the 26th and 27th, almost 30 year 13 students travelled up to Higham Beach in South Head to take part in Peer Support training. This involved us participating in a series of team building activities, talking about what leadership means to us, and having a discussion with our principal, Ms Sullivan. Of course, there was also plenty of time for simply having fun together and eating large amounts of burgers and hot dogs.
Unlike the peer support groups of the past few years, the 2023 Peer Support Leaders had an added element of group bonding and team building. This came in the shape of a storm. The one which unfortunately left much of our local area flooded toward the end of January. So on top of activities such as “crocodile river,” where we had to move our teams from one side of the “river” to the other with just a few small platforms; or “human knots,” which involved all of us forming a circle, joining hands with someone opposite us and then without letting go untangling the circle, we also worked together to repair tents, provide alternate sleeping arrangements for some, and then mop up and ring out all the water in the morning which managed to creep its way into our tents overnight.
So, after a very strong team of Peer Support Leaders formed, we returned to an already disrupted school year on February 7th, and it has very quickly become evident how important this leadership role is for these year 9s who have already had a ‘stormy’ beginning to their high school journey. We spent two days with these new students, encouraging them to work together and get to know their peers and teachers before transitioning into a more regimented class schedule. From here, us Peer Support leaders spend one class a week working with our designated group of students. We build a close relationship with these students and endeavour to become both a friend and mentor to them for the rest of the year.