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PEER Students Learn about Healthy Relationships During Annual Conference

During a half-day conference on Tuesday, Oct. 31, PEER students discussed the importance of healthy relationships, including friendships, dating relationships and self-care. 

PEER, which stands for Positive Experiences in Relationships, is a specialized Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) high school class designed to develop students’ mentoring skills and help teach them how to assist their classmates emotionally, socially and academically. LCPS school social workers and staff from LAWS, a Loudoun County-based nonprofit organization, facilitated the conference. 

Conference coordinators and administrators were enthusiastic that the students had dedicated time to participate in the conference and to support their classmates with mentoring support. 

“I love the idea that you guys have found one of your niches to help other people. That’s what we need more of in this world. To stand here in a room with so many high school students who want to help others is probably one of the best events of my career. I love that you are all here,” said Dr. John Walker, Student Support Services Supervisor and organizer of this year’s PEER conference.

For Jennifer Evans, LCPS Student Mental Health Services Director, this year’s conference was the tenth one she had attended. Prior to becoming director, Evans oversaw the PEER program, and for her, it was great to see how the program has grown. “I can’t tell you how enjoyable and satisfying it has been to see the program evolve,” said Evans. “We started off very small and not every school had PEER. As I have seen it change over the last 10 years, it's been very rewarding to me to see the program grow. I just want to say thank you for all you do for your students and community.”

Students in attendance were eager to take ideas from the conference back to their schools to implement.

Bri Cleary, a junior at Loudoun County High School, said she became a PEER helper because she is “interested in bettering the school community.” 

Hailey Ferguson, a senior at Loudoun County High School, said that she was looking forward to learning more about the topics to be able to spread the message within her community.

After learning about healthy relationships and self-care approaches, the PEER students presented strategies they will sponsor in their schools to raise awareness about the issues presented. Many of the school groups plan to host awareness-raising events in February during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Published November 14, 2023