Peers 4 Peers class brings mentorship to Encina Preparatory High School
At Encina Preparatory High School, the Peers 4 Peers mentorship class is helping a group of students make a big difference on campus. Peers 4 Peers is a program that pairs student mentors with their junior classmates for the duration of the school year, giving them the opportunity to engage in mental wellness activities and to form bonds outside of their usual social circles.
Iso Marcus, a school-based mental health and wellness clinician for the Sacramento County Office of Education, brought the Peers 4 Peers program to Encina in Fall 2023 as a way to improve student mental health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the cravings that I had was to create more systems for community care here at Encina to kind of address those feelings that students were having that we were noticing, of feeling alone, of feeling detached from other people, feeling like they’re the only person who’s been through these challenging things,” they said.
Mentors learn about effective communication and leadership skills throughout class to help them navigate their time with their mentees. This peer-to-peer quality time provides an emotional resource that students might not otherwise have access to.
Iris Collon, a 12th-grade student mentor, described the Peer 4 Peer class as something that would have been valuable to her when she was younger. “It feels very helpful,” she said. “It actually feels like I’m doing something good in life to help other people with what I used to go through.”
Students in the class form bonds with one another as well as with their mentees. At the start of class, the Peers 4 Peers students sit in a circle and have discussions about their lives in a safe environment. During a recent session, a student asked what makes everyone proud. Afterward, another student asked if they had time to do one more round, and the class cheered in agreement.
“It really helps me to communicate, and not to be afraid of speaking out loud, of speaking my truth,” said Elise Brandon, an 11th-grade student. “If I didn’t have this help, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”