What is the PEERS Project?
The PEERS Project affirms and empowers high school role models to mentor and teach middle school students an interactive program. The program is designed to motivate young people to make healthy decisions and avoid being sidetracked from their life goals by sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other risky behaviors.
In 1994, St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc. in Indianapolis, Indiana initiated the development of an innovative positive youth development program to create a new paradigm: Instead of teenagers being the problem, they are now part of the solution. PEERS prevention models help maximize the influence or peer pressure of young role models. St. Vincent Hospital chose this peer-facilitated approach because youth development models were proving to be one of the most effective ways to constructively guide adolescent attitudes and behavior.
Why it Works
Youth Engagement—promoting youth as problem solvers, rather than just the problem—has proven to be more effective than problem prevention models in galvanizing commitments from adolescents.
Adolescents need to have positive peer support systems, such as the PEERS Project, to avoid risky behaviors. Youth are highly influenced by a desire to please their friends, to be part of the “in crowd.” It is much easier for young people to choose to avoid risky behaviors if their friends share these values.
Therefore, at the heart of the PEERS Project’s intervention are its teenage mentors. The primary goal of the PEERS Project is investing in young leaders through adult mentoring, character-based education, peer support, and a coordinated progressive series of activities and experiences.
Best practices leadership development models produce favorable outcomes because people thrive when given constructive opportunities to make contributions to others. When people are valued and motivated, they rise to higher levels of leadership.
Young people typically make choices in order to be accepted by others. Program participants are emboldened by PEERS mentors’ positive peer pressure. At the end of 8th grade, following three years of participation in the program, more than 8 out of 10 students were committed to saving sex for marriage.
Anna, PEERS Mentor
I believe kids should know the consequences of sex, drugs, and alcohol. I was influenced by the PEERS Group that visited my middle school and I envied how they carried themselves. As a result, I decided to become a PEERS Mentor and I really enjoyed teaching students last year. I feel like I actually made an impact. I love to make a difference in any way possible while educating younger students about abstinence.
I have decided to make a personal commitment to abstain from drugs, sex, and alcohol because I have personally witnessed its effects. I want to abstain because I believe that drugs, alcohol, and sex at this age are not worth the long-term consequences. I can’t risk drinking and having sex and becoming pregnant. I want to do bigger things before I have a family. I want to stay above bad influences, because it is the safest choice.