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Posted: May 12, 2009  17:53

PEAK is Tops for Boundary County Youth


Trent Petersen, Laura Anderson, And Katie Pluid Believe In The Power Of Peak.

The word "peak" conjures images of a summit or a high point of excellence, and for six weeks during the school year, the seventh grade students at Boundary County Middle School get a chance to reach for the PEAK in their health classes.

The PEAK program, Peers Encouraging Abstinent Kids, is a mentoring program where high school students go into the seventh grade health classes and discuss such topics as sexual abstinence as well as abstinence from drugs, alcohol and smoking.

"PEAK is giving younger kids some enlightenment on sex, drugs and alcohol abuse," said Trent Petersen, president of the PEAK group and a senior at Bonners Ferry High School. "I started in PEAK when I was a freshman. We go to the middle school every Wednesday for six weeks and do different activities with the kids. We teach them how to say 'no' by using the Three R's: Refuse, Reverse and Run. We try to show the kids basic consequences and precautions they can take. The information seems to stick with some of the kids."

Laura Anderson, PEAK advisor, said that there are about 18 students currently acting as PEAK mentors. She said that Bonners Ferry High School was the pilot program for the state back in 1997. The mentors work from a PEAK manual published by Panhandle Health District 1.

"Diane Blanford was the initial contact for the county in 1997," said Laura. "That is when the PEAK program started state-wide. As the program grew, Panhandle Health out of Coeur d'Alene hired advisors to travel to the northern counties to do trainings until 2006. As the program developed, there were schools all over the state that used the program. However, in 2006, the PEAK coordinator was discontinued because of state budget cuts, so schools stopped offering the program. Boundary County School District chose to continue the program under Safe and Drug-Free Schools and that's how it is funded now."

Laura said that the high school students are the ones who encouraged the continuation of the program.

"It's been a nation-wide trend to drop the abstinence program," she said, "but the kids here felt that it was not just about sexual abstinence, it's about saying 'no' to all sorts of unhealthy activities. The kids themselves voted to keep it this past January because they felt it was valuable."

Laura has been advising the PEAK program for the last 12 years and said that it has been very successful.

"It is a very positive interaction between the high school kids and the middle school kids," she said. "The younger students look up to the high school kids and listen to their message. The beauty of it is that when a peer says something, the message gets across a little stronger."

Laura said that another driving force for the high school kids to become PEAK mentors is that they appreciated the program when they were in seventh grade and now want to give that same positive experience to the younger students.

Junior Katie Pluid, in her second year as a PEAK mentor, said, "When I was in seventh grade and the PEAK mentors came to my health class, it was really fun and I learned a lot. They would answer any question and it was a fun way to get informed. The kids are really fun and there's just something about knowing that you're making an impact on their lives that's really rewarding."

Laura said that the high school PEAK mentors actually run the program themselves. She said that they work together with Mr. Hinthorn, the middle school health teacher , but the teens are in charge of the program. She said they decide which lessons to teach from the PEAK manual and how to conduct the activities. She said that from her perspective, PEAK is a good leadership training exercise that benefits the older teenagers as well as the younger adolescents.

"It's such a benefit to Boundary County," she said. "It is a program that allows the community to see high school students in a positive light because these kids are choosing to give back to their community."


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