Peer Ed spreads awareness, education

Peer+Ed+spreads+awareness%2C+education

Troy Freitas

Anthony Balais (10), Sierra Walden (12), and Dillon Sunday (11) present the three Bs: be safe, be respectful, and be responsible to the Hickam Elementary student body.

Alexa Conrad, Reporter

Visitors walking into or by the Peer Education classroom may see, on any given day, a beauty pageant queen or an escorted group of female inmates speaking to a captive audience. On more than one occasion, though, emotions will well up, and there isn’t a dry eye to be found in the room.

Peer Education teacher Troy Freitas works with students to address sensitive subjects in a way that allows them to connect, and feel comfortable with sharing about life issues.

“I believe the program is very relevant to high school students,” Freitas said.

Freitas said that the class gives its 92 students a place where they can be themselves, be accepted, talk about real personal life issues, and learn about various topics such as love, sex, drugs, suicide, depression, success, communication, criticism, and much more.

Guest speakers are regularly scheduled into the curriculum.

“We have speakers visit that talk about prison life, choices, goal setting, drinking and driving, texting and driving, birth control and sex, acting, and other [topics],” Freitas said.

First year student Tyrah Infante (12) said that Carlo Raneses from Heald College recently visited the class to speak to the students on the topic of ‘What’s our purpose?’ “I think that was the best guest speaker we had so far,” she said.

Guest speakers from Domestic Violence Action Center’s Teen Alert Program worked with the class on an important message. Teen Alert works to prevent domestic violence in Hawaii, and provides a hotline, counseling, resources, and legal advocacy for abuse victims.

Using information from guest speakers and independent research, students brainstorm topics, and form small groups. Presentations are specifically designed to make students feel comfortable and open. Groups are scheduled to speak in classes that invite them, and in this instance, their objective is to bring awareness and education to peers and teachers on Intimate Partner Violence.

While working on the project, Infante learned to build presentation skills, and about the effects of substance abuse.

In their presentations, groups share statistics about intimate partner violence, warning signs of abuse, how to help a friend, and why abuse should never be tolerated..

“The presentation of guidelines and specific information [are given to student presenters], but students are free to present in any way they feel best,” Freitas said. “They may use games, skits, power points, and visual aids.”

Presentations are also extended to other schools in the area.

“We visit two to three elementary schools a year to do presentations to the whole school about treating others the right way,” Freitas said.

On Dec. 8, Peer Education loaded two buses to speak to students at Hickam Elementary about the three Bs: be safe, be respectful, and be responsible. In addition to presenting, Peer Education students played games, performed skits, made a pledge, and created a chant.

Freitas said, “Most kids say they have become better people because of Peer Education.”

Freitas has three guiding goals for his program: promote health for you, promote health for others, and develop presentation skills.

Infante said that she enjoys the class because “Mr. Freitas makes the class really fun and comfortable to be in. You just feel welcomed.”

It isn’t surprising, then, that Peer Education’s motto encompasses something for everyone: “Striving for you and others to be their best!”