Sarah B. ’16, Sarah C. ’16 and Sabrina ’16 started Dear Sally Peer Counseling, a peer advisory group that will anonymously answer e-mails from students from all grade levels in order to create an internal support system for students that will start this fall. The organizers hope the new program will provide a way for upperclassmen to give advice to younger students and help students manage stress and anxiety, especially related to school.
Sabrina discussed how her experiences with Sarah B. and Sarah C. at Teen Line influenced her motivation to start the peer advisory group at Marlborough.
“[We] really saw the power of peer to peer help while working at Teen Line. We wanted to start something similar at Marlborough so that older girls could help younger girls,” Sabrina explained.
With the help of physical education instructor Tinka Brown and school counselor Emily Vaughn, serving as advisors for the club, the three seniors managed to make their vision a reality. Seven juniors were accepted last semester and are now participating in a 15-week training program. When they become seniors this fall, they will begin answering e-mails.
To become a part of the peer advisory group, juniors must apply towards the end of Quarter Two. The written application involves answering questions about how applicants feel they can contribute to the program.
Sarah B., Sarah C. and Sabrina all work at Teen Line, a helpline that connects teenage volunteers with other teenagers across the United States via phone to provide them with personal advice about coping techniques for issues like academic or social stress and depression. Like Teenline, the Dear Sally peer counselors learn to acknowledge and recognize different feelings and provide different strategies for managing stress, but at Marlborough they will provide advice through e-mail. Once students complete the training, they are assigned different days of the week to check and reply to e-mails. Girls who become peer counselors also assist with presentations on mental health issues to the Middle School.
Vaughn explained that the training focuses on helping the peer advisers empathize with the people they are trying to help.
“[Peer counseling] has a lot to do with active listening and the ability to understand feelings from thoughts and to recognize what the issues really are. There is also training about different parts of teen life, from issues [dealing] with academics, friendships, family issues, to self harm,” Vaughn said.
According to Sabrina, she and the other two seniors wanted to start the program in order to harness the power of peer-to-peer help, especially for girls in younger grades who are having trouble dealing with the pressure from academics, friends and family at school.
“When I was in the younger grades, I felt that no one really talked about what to expect when you got older. No one told you how to cope with all the stress and how to reach out to older girls. I think that this [peer counseling program] will help provide support to younger girls,” Sabrina explained.
According to Vaughn, if the Dear Sally program is successful and is met with high demand, the group may transition into providing face–to–face peer support as well as e-mail. She added that the program will provide resources for students if they need more professional help, such as from Teen Line.
Isabel ’17, a junior who was accepted to be a peer counselor and has volunteered as a listener at Teen Line for over a year, said that she is very excited to help launch the program at Marlborough.
“It hopefully will be really helpful, especially in the younger grades, to have somebody they can go to talk to and get advice [from] so they won’t be as stressed out,” Isabel said.