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PEER Students Learn about Hazing and Effort to Prevent it at Annual Conference

The Loudoun-based nonprofit Love Like Adam shared an anti-hazing presentation with more than 200 Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) PEER students on Nov. 1 at the LCPS Administrative Building.

PEER, which stands for Positive Experiences in Educational Relationships, is a specialized high school class for student leaders to develop mentoring skills and teach students how to assist their fellow students emotionally, socially, and academically. Each November, PEER students gather for an annual conference. This year’s conference was the first in-person conference after two years of being held virtually.

The Love Like Adam Foundation was created following the death of Adam Oakes. A Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) student and Potomac Falls graduate, Oakes died from alcohol poisoning following a fraternity initiation ceremony in February 2021.

“After Adam’s death, we made it our mission to raise awareness about the dangers of hazing and educate students on what it is and how it happens. Adam helped people while alive, and he continues to help people after his death,” said Courtney Oakes, Oakes’ cousin and president of the Love Like Adam Foundation.

During the conference, PEER students watched an 18-minute documentary created by Daniel Catullo, an award-winning director, which leads viewers through the events that occurred the night of Adam’s death and introduces five of the former fraternity members who, following Adam’s death, were charged with misdemeanor hazing and serving alcohol to a minor. These former fraternity members were not sentenced to jail time but instead required to complete community service. At the November event, two former fraternity members – Andrew White and Colin Tran – were in attendance to talk about the incident and answer questions.

Following the video and discussion, PEER students worked in groups to develop strategies for sharing Love Like Adam’s anti-hazing message.

Jen Evans, LCPS Director of Student Mental Health Services, said that while the information presented was hard to hear, she felt the PEER students learned a valuable lesson, one she hopes they will be able to share with students in their schools. “The expectation for the PEER students is that they create school-wide campaigns focused on hazing awareness and education. I think this message is valuable because, in just a few months, many of these students, as they go off to college themselves, may encounter scenarios similar to what Adam discovered at VCU. With this education, they will be better prepared to respond.”

LCPS has established a memorandum of understanding with Love Like Adam Foundation to develop an age-appropriate curriculum for LCPS high school students. The Love Like Adam Foundation is especially interested in working with LCPS as Oakes and five of the 11 students charged in Oakes’ death were LCPS graduates.

Published November 28, 2022