Final SayTo Give is to Receive
By Emily Hawkins '11
Created by Punahou School's Psychosocial Department, the Peer Helping program provides students with the prospect to both lead and be led by one another. Through various opportunities within the program, including 9th Grade Guidance, Introduction to Counseling Psychology (ICP), Camp Kuleana (for incoming freshmen), and Academy Camp (open to grades 9 – 12), students get the chance to lead their peers through fun, challenging and exploratory activities in and out of classroom confines. Here are a couple of experiences that stand out:
Spring 2009 – Academy Camp Ropes Course: Overcoming the Multi-Vines
As I started to climb towards the sky, the cool mountain air whipped around my head. The ascent, made possible by strategically placed staples acting as stepping-stones, began shakily. My legs were trembling like leaves; my hands were unable to stabilize me, and my body quivered with every passing breeze. Once I made it to the wire suspended some 30 feet in the air, I could not help but wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea. I was clearly unqualified to walk across a wire with only the hanging "vines" (made of rope) overhead as a means to steady myself.
Suddenly, I heard a voice below me scream, "Give me an E!" Then the rest of the voices around him screamed, "You got your E; you got your E!" The cheer continued with the giving and taking of an "M," "I," "L" and "Y." It was then that my surroundings and this incredible experience sank in. The point of the activity was not dependent on my making it across to the other side, but rather in the connection I developed with my fellow campers and team leaders who were supporting me from the ground. I realized that no matter how far I got on that wire, I would have accomplished something.
My life, quite literally, was in the hands of my peers as they worked the belay system. I knew I wasn't in any real danger, but it was the reassurance from my team members' confident and optimistic cheers that got me through the emotions of the Multi-Vine activity.
Fall 2009 – Introduction to Counseling Psychology: A Roomful of Trust
Before me sat a roomful of 15 students looking to me for guidance –for the next step –and I was looking to them for acceptance. As the teacher's aide for this ICP class, I would be the first to present my "Crossroads," telling them about myself, and what events led me to becoming this person.
I knew that whatever I shared with them would set the bar for what they would be comfortable sharing in class. With every story I told, a door opened for their stories to be heard. It was my job to open those doors and allow them to see into my life in an intimate and honest way. It was then their job to decide how deeply into their lives they would allow us to venture with them.
As I revealed my experiences, weaving them a patchwork quilt of my life, they sat listening intently, giving me the confidence to speak freely. Though in theory I was supposed to be leading them, those 15 students taught me what it meant to be heard. It was that class, filled with my peers, some whom I hardly knew, that taught me how it felt to be appreciated and truly understood.
They could each see how the person sitting next to them was listening, and that gave our class the assurance to trust freely and without reservation. Everyone at ease, they were then able to weave their own, utterly beautiful, patchwork quilts for one another.
I believe that my high-school years have been made exponentially better by my involvement in the Peer Helping program. I have met the most interesting and talented people during my time at Punahou, and through peer helping, have come to know their exceptional minds and souls.