Counseling Center Rolls Out Peer Support Program

Veronica Jiang, Campus News Reporter

A special program at Kent, the Peer Support Program is available for every student at Kent to help them with academics, navigating the school schedule, or any other emotional problems such as homesickness or socializing. “The purpose is to help students navigate and acclimate to the Kent community and better get through that transition,” said Ms. Bonello, Director of Counseling. “Anybody can connect with a peer support person about anything. The expectation of the program is that it will fan out the whole campus and this team can really help students feel comfortable here at Kent.”

The key focus of the program is to allow students to support students. “Sometimes students feel more comfortable talking to peers instead of sharing their stories with adults,” said Ms. Bonello. She chose upper-formers to be peer supporters because they are the best fit to give advice or to be mentors for underformers. 

The biggest challenge Ms. Bonello shared was time limitation: “It’s time-consuming to have training.” Each peer supporter needs to do 4 hours per week on three consecutive Sundays, beginning in October, to be trained by two school counselors. During the 12-hour learning process, these peer supporters study skills that are important to be a supporter for their schoolmates, including setting appropriate boundaries and how to be an active listener. 

In spite of the time commitment, students are enthusiastic about the program. There were 37 applicants who were interested this year. Each filled out an application form and had an interview with Ms. Bonello. Sixteen peer supporters were ultimately chosen to undergo training. “We are looking for students who are able to manage their schedules really well and don’t have any anxiety about their workload,” said Ms. Bonello.

This program is an update of the former Peer Counseling Program. Ms. Bonello reconstructed it and added training sessions for the peer supporters and processing meetings biweekly to note progress and discuss issues. Peer Supporters will be stationed everywhere on campus: in dorms, in the dining hall, or in the library. After the training, each peer supporter will send out an email to everyone to introduce their locations and students can go directly to them without scheduling ahead. “I don’t have any worries about the program going forward.” Ms. Bonello stated proudly.