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April 2, 2013 > Peer Resource and Mission: SOS

Peer Resource and Mission: SOS

By Angie Wang

Happiness, health, and self-confidence aren't always at the top of Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) students' priority lists where they should be. In any competitive high school environment, the chase for good grades or academic and extracurricular success can get in the way of good health.

Peer Resource is a MSJHS organization dedicated to making the school a kinder place. The class is made up of students who serve as student counselors to other students who are in need of guidance, advice, or help with personal issues.

This year, Peer's motto is "light up the darkness" which comes from a quote by Bob Marley. "The people who are trying to make the world worse are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness." Peer Resource takes this to heart. While they may not be able to cure MSJHS of all of its stresses and pressures, Peer students are still doing whatever they can to better the school environment. "We're going to work hard every day to improve people's lives," says Peer Resource student Zarrie Yazd. "We're going to light up the darkness."

Peer Resource has three main goals: to serve as Peer Counselors to students in need of a helping hand, to spread awareness of sensitive topics like dating violence, and to plan events to boost MSJHS's "happy levels." Each of the projects is inspired by these goals. For example, the school's collaboration with Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE) is inspired by the goal to spread awareness such as during Roses Monday, Peer Resource students passed out five dozen roses with inspirational quotes attached. They followed the roses' whereabouts on Instagram with the custom hashtag #lightupthedarkness, inspired by the goal to boost happiness. All of these things help Peer Resource reach its ultimate goal of lighting up the darkness.

In addition, Caitlin Ha, a member of Peer Resource, discovered the University of Southern California's Facebook page "USC Compliments." Peer decided to set up and manage a similar page for MSJHS, called "MSJ Compliments." In only one month, the page has hit over 800 "likes" and Peer has posted hundreds of compliments honoring students and faculty at the school. "In the age of cyber-bullying, this is definitely a great counter-movement to make students' social networking experience more enjoyable," Yazd said.

Just this year, Peer has planned a wide variety of events. Peer has been working with SAVE on a t-shirt campaign to spread awareness of dating abuse by empowering young couples to leave unhealthy relationships before they become abusive. Peer also held two "Happy Friday Hot Chocolate Giveaways," setting up stations in the school's Bell Tower Quad and passing out free hot chocolate and other treats to students. Just recently, Peer students gave Drug and Alcohol Presentations to freshman health classes. The members have organized numerous Peer Talks, or student discussions on topics that affect them, like tiger moms, school spirit, finals, and more. Peer Resource will continue to host such events throughout the second semester.

Another important MSJHS organization, Mission: SOS (Stressed Out Students) supports a school environment that nurtures integrity, academic engagement, connectedness, and well-being. SOS wants students to make healthy and honest choices throughout high school, to create a foundation for the rest of their lives. By hosting events such as surprise stress-free days (SSFDs), SOS removes the stresses of school, however temporarily.

SSFDs are planned months in advance, beginning with a choice of date and a presentation to the Curriculum Council, which consists of all the school department heads, explaining why teachers should sacrifice a day of instruction to participate. SOS also plans a lunchtime activity for SSFD and thanks teachers for their participation in the form of a teacher breakfast and small gifts delivered to classrooms.

In the past, SSFDs have been very well received. However, some students are frustrated when their teachers choose to continue with their lesson plans and not participate. SOS understands that asking to give up an entire teaching day is a lot to ask, but will continue to work toward more teacher participation. Since the event was first hosted last year, more teachers have already agreed to the conditions of stress-free day by moving tests and quizzes, postponing lectures, and providing a calm environment in which students can relax.

Later in the year, SOS will host its annual Rising Seniors' Workshop. Usually attended by the entire junior class, the event provides valuable college information and advice. SOS also hosts Parent-Student Partnership for Success presentations, in which the participants can text in answers to a questionnaire presented to the audience. The data from the texts is shown immediately after the survey, and parents and students in the audience have a chance to explain their responses to the survey question. These events are aimed at creating more understanding relationships between parents and students.

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