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Natural Helpers is a peer based helping program designed for middle and high school students who want to strengthen their communication and helping skills by providing support and service to others. Natural Helpers is based on a simple premise: students naturally seek out other trustworthy students, and occasionally teachers, for advice, assistance, or just a sympathetic ear.
Students and school adults are chosen through an anonymous survey process where they also choose top concerns (grades, rumors, drug use, etc.). A cross section of students identified by the survey is then invited to attend the retreat. The retreat is designed to engage students in team building and problem solving skills, while breaking down barriers with the diverse group. Participants also learn active listening skills, knowing their limitations to helping others, and how to better care for themselves. Natural Helpers are not professionally trained counselors or therapists.
The program focuses on reinforcing positive norms and changing negative ones. By focusing on the attitudes and behaviors of individual Natural Helpers, the program seeks to influence those norms. The changes occur on several levels: one to one, when Natural Helpers are helping their friends; in the classroom, when Natural Helpers are learning skills and forming attitudes; and in the school & community.
Which norms? The most significant norms are ‘helping’ norms.
Positive helping norms can be:
Negative helping norms can be:
Throughout the school year, Natural Helpers attend ongoing training which refreshes their skills and/or explores other pertinent topics. Several schools choose to use Natural Helpers as a service-oriented club which assists the specific needs of the school or community.
The evaluation of Natural Helpers also occurs on several levels. The program contains processes for setting up goals, objectives, and activities so that a process evaluation is all but done at the conclusion of the year.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a thousand masks,
adapted from ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’
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