Calhoun’s focus on leadership is a longstanding tradition. A hallmark of this focus is Calhoun’s Peer Leadership program, which was first introduced 37 years ago. Each year, 16-18 seniors are accepted into the program after an extensive interview process, and then trained to support freshmen through their transition to high school and the challenges of a teenage life. As Peer Leaders work with their mentees, both participants find incredible opportunities for growth and form lasting relationships.
Peer Leader Tallulah Hunt ’18, who was brand-new to Calhoun in ninth grade, still remembers the influence of her two Peer Leaders. “It was a great experience having someone who was there for me, especially an older student who I looked up to,” she recalls. Even Rea Brayshaw ’18, who has been at Calhoun since preschool, says she felt “a lot of social anxiety and stress” being a freshman, but that “even the smallest thing like my Peer Leader saying hi to me in the hallway made me feel like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’”
But while Peer Leaders play a huge role in the lives of freshmen, the experience is equally meaningful for the Peer Leaders themselves. Any current Peer Leader will tell you that their own Peer Leaders inspired them to continue the cycle of community building and mentoring. “My Peer Leaders were like a brother and sister to me when I was a freshman,” says Sam Horn ‘18, “so I felt it was important to repay the favor and be that kind of role model.”
Bart Hale ’00, Calhoun’s Alumni Director and a former Peer Leader, says the experience was transformative. “Peer Leaders grow and learn just as much as the ninth graders they’re teaching,” says Bart. “You learn more about yourself during a very formative time of your life. I would say that it was the most lasting academic experience I had at Calhoun.” Another former Peer Leader, Todd Garrin ’02, agrees, observing that “the things I learned being a Peer Leader—how to talk in front of a group, make presentations, be succinct and clear— are invaluable life skills. . . Going into the workplace, I felt like I was already ahead.”
The Peer Leadership program provides students with a unique opportunity to step into the role of mentor. As these seniors work with their 9th grade peers throughout the course of the year, they successfully rise to the challenge of becoming young leaders. The program leaves a lasting impression on Calhouners, who emerge with the skills, confidence and drive to continue to lead throughout their lives.