Peer Group Connection – High School (PGC-HS)
Center for Supportive Schools (www.supportiveschools.org)
Peer Group Connection - High School (PGC-HS) is a cross-age, peer-to-peer group mentoring program for 9th grade students, designed to facilitate the transition from middle to high school and to develop social and emotional skills, enhance student engagement, and improve educational outcomes. The program encourages and supports 11th and 12th grade students to become peer leaders for 9th graders. The program includes 18 weekly 45-minute outreach sessions for 9th grade students.
The program is designed to be delivered by 11th and 12th grade student peer leaders to 9th grade students.
PGC-HS is designed to be implemented in high school classrooms during the school day.
For curriculum, materials, and pricing information, please contact:
Dr. Margo Ross, Managing Director, Communications & Development
Center for Supportive Schools
(609) 252-9300 x 113
For training and support, please contact:
Dr. Margo Ross, Managing Director, Communications & Development
Center for Supportive Schools
(609) 252-9300 x 113
|Category||Component||Core Component||Component present||Notes||Lesson number(s) / activities where present|
|Content||Graduating from high school||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #11 & #12: My Toughest Class Parts 1 and 2; Outreach #24: If I Could...|
|Content||Volunteering/civic engagement||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Service Learning (Option 1 or Option 2)|
|Content||Spirituality||No||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #13: Identity Stories|
|Content||Morals/values||No||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #13: Identity Stories|
|Content||Identity development||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #4: Pieces of Me; Outreach #5: Two Facts and a Fiction; Outreach #13: Identity Stories|
|Content||Social support/capital||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #7: Creating a Caring Community; Outreach #10: Me as a Tree; Outreach #18: The Power of We; Outreach #21: Clear Communication; Outreach #22: Pressure Zone; Outreach #25: Looking Back|
|Content||Social influence/actual vs. perceived social norms||No|
|Content||Social competence||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #7: Creating a Caring Community; Outreach #10: Me as a Tree; Outreach #18: The Power of We; Outreach #21: Clear Communication; Outreach #22: Pressure Zone|
|Content||Parenting skills||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Family Night|
|Content||Leadership||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)|
|Content||Cultural values||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #13: Identity Stories|
|Content||Connections with trusted adults||Yes (evaluated version)||Family Night|
|Content||Conflict resolution/social problem solving||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #20: Decisions, Decisions; Outreach #21: Clear Communication; Outreach #22: Pressure Zone; Outreach #23: Think Before You Click|
|Content||Communication skills||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #21: Clear Communication|
|Content||Boundary setting/refusal skills||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #20: Decisions, Decisions; Outreach #21: Clear Communication; Outreach #22: Pressure Zone; Outreach #23: Think Before You Click|
|Content||Substance use - Other drugs||No|
|Content||Substance use - Alcohol||No|
|Content||Substance use - Abstinence||No|
|Content||Brain development and substance use||No|
|Content||Supplemental academic services||No|
|Content||School engagement||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #6: Showing Up as I Am; Outreach #11 and #12: My Toughest Class Parts 1 and 2|
|Content||Self-regulation||No||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #10: Me as a Tree|
|Content||Self-esteem||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Ritual Outreach: Appreciation Day|
|Content||Self-efficacy/empowerment||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #6: Showing Up as I Am; Outreach #8: I Am...|
|Content||Resilience||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Outreach #11: My Toughest Class - Part 1; Outreach #12: My Toughest Class - Part 2; Outreach #17: Pass the Problem; Outreach #22: Pressure Zone|
|Content||Personal vulnerability||Yes||Yes (evaluated version)||Included in some form throughout all outreach sessions with 9th graders and in the leadership course with the 11th and 12th graders|
|Content||STIs - Treatment||No|
|Content||STIs - Screening||No|
|Content||STIs - Prevention||No|
|Content||STIs - Information||No|
|Content||Sexual risk reduction||No|
|Content||Sexual risk discontinuation||No|
|Content||Sexual risk avoidance||No|
|Content||Substance use cessation||No|
|Content||Contraception - Condoms||No|
|Content||Contraception - Long-acting reversible contraceptives||No|
|Content||Contraception - Other||No|
|Content||Contraception - Pills, patches, rings, and shots||No|
PGC-HS aims to support youth with their transition from middle school into high school and to develop social and emotional skills, enhance student engagement, and improve educational outcomes. The program prepares 11th and 12th grade student peer leaders to facilitate weekly outreach sessions with 9th graders through a year-long (or equivalent), credit-bearing leadership course taught by school staff known as faculty advisors. The program also includes a Family Night to facilitate communication between caregivers and their children.
PGC-HS is rooted in social and emotional learning (SEL) and social learning theory. Weekly outreach sessions cover the following topics:
- Relationship skills
- School engagement
- Self-awareness and self-management
- Educational aspirations and expectations
- Conflict resolution
- Goal setting
- Coping skills
- Communication skills
- Decision making
- Peer acceptance
PGC-HS is a peer-led, curriculum-based intervention that includes interactive group activities, role-playing simulations and games, and discussions.
The program begins with a three-day retreat, during which faculty advisors introduce peer leaders to PGC-HS goals and expectations and focus on group development and cohesion. In addition to the initial leadership training retreat, peer leaders participate in ongoing training through a daily leadership course taught by faculty advisors.
Following the three-day leadership training retreat for peer leaders, they work in pairs with small groups of 9th grade students to facilitate a daylong retreat, known as Activity Day, to introduce participating 9th graders to PGC-HS goals. By the third week of implementation, participating 9th graders begin attending a minimum of 18 45-minute weekly outreach sessions led by 11th and 12th grade peer leaders. The ideal peer group size is 10 to 14 9th graders per team of two peer leaders. During the second half of the school year, 9th graders use skills acquired from the outreach sessions to plan and execute a service-learning project. On average, the program includes at least 10.5-13.5 hours of content for 9th grade youth in addition to the service learning project.
The program also has a caregiver component, in which peer leaders organize and facilitate a Family Night for 9th graders and their primary caregivers that focuses on communication.
When the PGC-HS participants reach 10th grade, there is an option to offer three 2.5-hour booster activities led by 11th and 12th grade peer leaders to reinforce content from the outreach sessions in which they participated as 9th grade students. There are a total of three two and a half hour booster sessions, designed to reinforce skills.
The program is supported by four key groups:
- The stakeholder team supports the integration of the program into the school and typically includes school staff, parents and caregivers, and students. The stakeholder team identifies and selects school staff to become faculty advisors and teach the daily leadership course to peer leaders. The stakeholder team includes a stakeholder team coordinator (STC) who serves as the primary liaison to the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) staff and helps facilitate the program. The STC schedules technical assistance visits made by CSS staff to observe the peer leadership class and 9th grade outreach sessions, collects school data (attendance, discipline, grades) for program evaluation, collects implementation data, and coordinates an evaluation survey administered to peer leaders and 9th grade participants. STCs also meet monthly with selected school staff and the full stakeholder team to ensure goals are met before, during, and after program implementation.
- Two selected school staff members serve as faculty advisors and participate in an 11-day train-the-trainer course over 18 months to learn how to run the program and co-teach the daily leadership course.
- School faculty and staff are trained to serve as PGC-HS ambassadors, who help support program implementation by observing the outreach sessions and providing feedback to faculty advisors on peer leaders’ skills and effectiveness.
- 11th and 12th grade student peer leaders are trained in a daily leadership development class and facilitate weekly outreach sessions with small groups of 9th grade students. Peer leaders are selected based on application materials, group interviews, academic records, and a demonstrated commitment to participating in the program. Careful consideration is given to ensuring that peer leaders are representative (that is race, ethnicity, academic abilities, extracurricular interests) of the student body of their school community.
Faculty advisors use the PGC-HS Advisor Handbook, which includes the curriculum for the initial three-day leadership training retreat, the daily peer leadership development class, and a mid-program leadership training retreat. Peer leaders use the PGC-HS Outreach Handbook, which contains the content of each of the weekly outreach sessions and associated handouts. Additional materials (that is, cards, game boards) to support the outreach sessions are available for purchase.
The daily leadership course requires a designated classroom space and appropriate space to host concurrent small-group outreach sessions during the same class period. A designated retreat site, meals, and transportation are necessary to conduct the retreat with peer leaders and faculty. Additional chaperones may be needed for the retreat, depending on school needs.
PGC-HS should be implemented as the developer intended, with all required components of the program being completed, including the outreach sessions, peer leadership, Family Night, and service learning. School implementation sites can opt to apply to become recognized as a certified program site for excellence in program implementation with high fidelity.
Faculty advisors and the STC participate in an 11-day “train-the-trainer” course facilitated by the CSS. The train-the-trainer course typically takes place over 18 months and teaches school staff how to run the program and deliver the daily peer leadership training class. Stakeholder team members also receive training to understand the tools and resources needed to implement the program with fidelity.
Selected peer leaders will participate in a year-long leadership training course to prepare them to conduct weekly outreach sessions. The course is part of their regular school schedule. Peer leaders will also participate in two leadership training retreats. The daily class and retreats are designed to teach peer leaders how to serve as positive role models, facilitate and lead small group discussions, and act as mentors to 9th graders.
The STC is responsible for coordinating technical assistance and coaching visits made by the CSS staff. CSS program staff provide technical assistance and coaching support to faculty advisors, the STC, and the stakeholder team members through site visits and observations, video and phone coaching sessions, and email.
Adaptations are allowed in consultation with the program developer. For example, the program can be adjusted for different populations or translated into other languages. Virtual implementation resources and guidelines are available.
Walsh et al. (under review)
The program was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial involving 9th grade students in 18 high schools in New York City and rural North Carolina. Youth were randomly assigned to either a treatment group that received the semester- or yearlong Peer Group Connection-High School (PGC-HS) program or a control group that received class as usual. Surveys were administered at the beginning of 9th grade before PGC-HS programming was offered (baseline) and at the beginning of 10th grade (follow-up).