HHS Students Give of Themselves to Help Others
Last weekend forty-six 9th through 12th graders traveled to Camp Alvernia in Centerport, New York for a two-day training retreat for the Natural Helpers. Staff members Mr. Greg Foster, Mr. Josh Gutes, Ms. Erin Maer, Ms. Shannon Griffin and student intern Ms. Stacy Folbert accompanied the students and participated in the training.
This is the 20th year that this program is in existence. The weekend was filled with exercises and activities. Click here to see the agenda.
Natural Helpers is a peer-helping program used across the United States and in several other countries. It primarily serves middle school and high school students who want to strengthen their communication and helping skills, provide support to others, and service to their schools and communities.
The Natural Helpers program is based on a simple premise: Within every school, an informal "helping network" exists. Students with problems naturally seek out other students, and occasionally teachers or other school staff whom they trust. They seek them out for advice, for assistance, or just for a sympathetic ear. The Natural Helpers program uses this existing helping network; it provides training to students and adults who are already perceived as "natural helpers". It gives them the skills they need to provide help more effectively to young people who seek them out.
Natural Helpers are a cross-section of students and school adults identified through an anonymous school-wide survey. After representatives of all the subgroups in the school community are selected, they are invited to participate in the Natural Helpers program. They take part in a Retreat Training in a camp-like setting. There they learn how to improve their helping skills, how to contact professional helping resources when problems exceed their limits, and how to take better care of themselves. It is constantly emphasized at the training that Natural Helpers are not professionally trained therapists or counselors.
After this Retreat Training, Natural Helpers attend ongoing training, either in a semester class or in a less structured format. This ongoing training enhances basic skills and information covered in the Retreat Training, and explores topics of concern to students, such as stress, suicide, eating disorders, and relationships with friends and with family.
Natural Helpers report significant benefits from being involved in the program, whether their involvement is helping one to one, assisting with program coordination, volunteering for community projects, or fulfilling some other role. Natural Helpers find that the skills they learn and practice in working with others are beneficial with friends, teachers, family, and co-workers. They make new friends in the program and break down some of the barriers that exist in any community. Natural Helpers also experience the special feeling that comes from helping someone else and knowing that they have made a difference.
Goals of the Natural Helpers Program
The Natural Helpers program is designed to meet three basic goals:
1. To teach Natural Helpers effective ways to help their friends
2. To teach Natural Helpers positive ways of taking good care of themselves
3. To teach Natural Helpers ways to contribute to a safe and supportive school environment