The role of Peer Counselor is an esteemed leadership position at Deerfield, and for good reason.
The Peer Counselors are composed of sixteen upperclassmen who act as liaisons between the Health Center and the student body and provide support to students in the community.
Each applicant for the position goes through a rigorous application process made up of a thorough written application, a group interview, and a peer evaluation, among other aspects of the application.
Those selected then go through eight weeks of training during the spring term of their sophomore year to learn the best ways to support the community, and continue to meet frequently throughout the year.
Health Teacher Margaret Brown said she looks for “people who are really committed to doing the work, are empathetic, and have some experience navigating situations either with friends or family that would apply.”
She also mentioned that peer counselors should be good listeners, facilitators, and should be able to withhold judgment.
“Peer counseling is a larger task than many people think it is,” said Peer Counselor Jasmine Baldwin ’20.
Being a Peer Counselor entails being available to meet with students in the evenings, to respond to anonymous questions asked via their website, and to hold ninth-grade groups where they help facilitate discussion about difficult topics.
They also live dispersed throughout the upperclassmen dorms.
Dr. Brown is hoping to add to the sessions, focusing on important topics like body image, nutrition, stress, fitness, healthy relationships, and consent.
The core aspect of their jobs, however, revolves around supporting the community and the student body, in general.
“[Peer counseling] requires a person who is able to have conversations with anyone on campus and is willing to help others,” said Baldwin.
Hunter Keller ’20 agreed, adding that she thinks a peer counselor is “someone who understands the value of listening, not just being heard.”
She continued, “I think if someone is really listening to you, then life becomes a lot easier to handle.”
Another important part of peer counseling is the total confidentiality needed in such a position.
“A peer counselor…highly values confidentiality, and doesn’t take it lightly,” explained Baldwin.
Dr. Brown also urges students to trust in the confidentiality of the Peer Counselors.
She explained that, like the other healthcare professionals and counselors in the Health Center, all the peer counselors are required to keep meetings with students completely confidential, unless they are concerned that a person may harm themselves or others.
“I think that people should rely on them as much as they need,” said Dr. Brown.
Everyone interviewed agreed that peer counseling is a crucial aspect of Deerfield life and an important resource for the student body.
The counselors’ primary duty is figuring out the best way to support every member of the Deerfield community.
Baldwin said, “Peer counseling isn’t something to take lightly, but it is quite a service you can do for your community, and I believe that it is truly worth it.”