Peer Leadership at John Jay Middle School

Teenagers typically listen more to their friends than to their parents, teachers, or other adult role models.

This is the premise of Above the Influence, a substance abuse prevention program that engages student leaders in encouraging their peers to make healthy choices. This grant-funded program is being implemented at sixty high schools and middle schools across New York State. Senator Terence Murphy, a member of the New York State Senate Committee on Mental Health, recommended that John Jay Middle School participate in the program.    

“Eighth grade peer leaders were nominated for the Above the Influence program late last spring by their sixth and seventh grade team teachers,” said Principal Rich Leprine who is championing the program at John Jay. 

The peer leaders have been meeting weekly with mentors, discussing the challenges of growing up and the more motivating influences, such as friends, family, pets, sports, music, food, exercise, spirituality, books, and dreams of the future.

“This spring, the peer leaders will lead activities that help other students set personal goals, build better connections with adults, and develop the habits of healthy choices,” said Principal Leprine.     

“The goal of the school-based program is to help teens lead this process and show their peers that resisting substance use is something cool, and worthy of social status,” said professor of Psychiatry Peter Wyman, Ph.D., in a statement released by University of Rochester Medical Center where Above the Influence was refined and tested.

“I am proud to have provided funding to help bring Above the Influence to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District,” said Senator Terrence Murphy. “It is a program which will provide help students with the information they will need to handle peer pressure and make an informed decision to say no to drugs and alcohol.”