Mentoring program offered through Belmont County Student Services

IT IS well documented that peer pressure among school children can lead to negative and destructive behaviors. Peer pressure, however, also can produce positive and life-enriching results when applied under the right circumstances as demonstrated through a unique program of Belmont County Student Services.

Teens Applying Positive Pressure (TAPP) is a peer-to-peer program conducted by BCSS prevention specialists in the Bellaire, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry and Shadyside school districts. Its purpose is to provide high school students with leadership training so that they can appropriately mentor other students regarding positive lifestyle choices and behaviors. These include, among other topics, the importance of staying away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and how to deal with bullying.

BCSS Director Janet Groome said TAPP is implemented on a district basis. Each district forms a leadership group which then works with its BCSS prevention specialist to establish programming. Students wishing to be mentor/ leaders must be recommended by their teachers and apply to the leadership group through an interview process.

Once accepted as a peer leader, the students undergo development training which teaches them a variety of skills. They learn how to: present themselves as a leader, role play, communicate with others, conduct presentations, etc.

Groome said TAPP is a win-win situation for all students involved. “Children receive positive influence from their peers who, in turn, learn skills that aid them in preparing for life as an adult. It is beneficial to all.”

After training, student leaders and middle school or elementary students meet under the supervision of the prevention specialists to discuss positive lifestyle decisions. The goal is to expose the younger children to students who exemplify positive behavior they will want to emulate.

Julie Wickham, a BCSS prevention specialist with the Shadyside Local School District, said student leaders have done great work through TAPP. This has been evident particularly in a TAPP effort to ease the transition of sixth graders from Leona Middle School to seventh grade which is located in the high school building.

Wickham said sixth grade students are often apprehensive about making the move, not knowing what to expect. She said the high school student leaders help alleviate any fears or misconceptions the sixth graders may have by answering their questions and relating their own experiences.

Belmont County Student Services has been providing support services to help students develop skills to succeed in school as well as lead healthy, productive lives since 1981. To accomplish these goals, Student Services uses a Student Assistance Model which addresses the needs of students when problems interfere with their success in school. Prevention, intervention, education, advocacy and referrals are all integral components of this assistance model.

For more information, call 740-671-8579.