Peer Leadership Program

Peer Leadership Program for the Prevention and Intervention of Sex Trafficking on High School Campuses

Why Peer Leadership:

Schools are beginning to recognize that teen sex trafficking is an emerging threat to the physical safety of students and the overall health of the school community. Schools can work in partnership with student leaders to initiate school wide awareness and prevention and intervention activities to help make their communities safer.

Evidence shows that peer training programs create positive changes in schools because young people are most influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of their peers. Peer training prepares young people to use the positive power of peer influence.

High school students assume leadership roles in an effort to be heard. By engaging in this process, peer trainers learn how to effectively respond when they see students in vulnerable or potentially dangerous situations. They learn how to reach out, provide resources, and support for students who have been recruited into the life. Students develop the skills to lead interactive discussions and workshops for their peers. Students are empowered to create positive change in their environment that is student-led. Research shows that students thrive within communities that value and support their ideas, voices and programs they initiate.

A peer leadership program provides student leaders with opportunities to refine and build upon their leadership skills, gain new knowledge, develop new attitudes, and gain experiential practice in their role as leaders. In order to prepare students to be tomorrow’s leaders, peer leadership programs require a strong focus on the leadership development process – the recruitment, education and training, and skill development of student leaders – and a lesser focus on the results of their efforts. Although peer leaders are powerful catalysts for change in their schools and communities, leadership development has lasting societal benefits that extend far beyond the immediate projects peer leaders plan and implement.

The Rationale:

  • Simply, young people hear things differently from each other
  • To provide opportunities for students with leadership potential (of all kind) to develop, hone in on and practice those skills while engaging their peers
  • To enable students to experience their own voice and power
  • To effect change by exercising leadership in their environment through formal and informal interventions
  • To build awareness
  • To create future community activists and leaders

What does an effective peer leadership program need on campus?

Administrative Support: Sex trafficking is an important topic to discuss but it is also a very sensitive and political topic. Make sure your administration/district supports this.

In order for peer leaders to make a difference on their campus, they must have the support of a cross section of the school including, administration, staff, parents, community members and other students.

An adult sponsor on campus: Someone who is willing to consistently support the students and be the liaison between the community and the campus. The role of the sponsor is to provide guidance and leadership as well as providing training, resources and supports to the students in the group.

Community Connections/Community Experts: Are there non-profits or community agencies working on the issue? Local law enforcement? Your local anti-trafficking coalition should be your first source for initial training and preparation. In areas without a local coalition, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or human trafficking resource center.

Resources: Space, funding (ability to fundraise), supplies, time

Committed Group of Students:
Students are not meant to have all of the answers
Awareness is key to resolving the issues and stopping it before it starts.

Recruiting: Allow for nontraditional leaders that reflect a cross section of your campus. Include members of the most vulnerable populations on your campus

  • ELL
  • ESS
  • Undocumented
  • Financially disadvantaged

Once people pay attention to the issue and realize that it is effecting their (school) community they will be motivated to deal with it.
Students should have the ability to be empathetic toward the experiences and ideas of others.

  • Allow for different levels of student engagement.
  • Provide community service hours.

Engage service clubs that already exist on campus: Key Club, Be a Leader, National Honors Society, and STUGO.

Needs Assessment: To be effective leaders, youth need opportunities to develop and practice these skills within a context that has personal meaning and relevance to them.

  • What evidence do I have that this problem exists?
  • What has been done to address it in my community
  • Who is being affected

Ground Rules: Setting the ground rules is important to creating a safe environment that is conducive to learning and discussing sensitive topics. Working together to create the ground rules not only gets the group working together but helps the students to feel ownership of the program.

Parent support: Parent support looks very different in different sites. Sometimes it is volunteering to help coordinate, other times it is being a sponsor and at times parent support is simply that—parents who are aware of what activities their child is involved. It is important to loop in with families and let them know about the material the students are covering.