Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

Peer Project Serves Up Leadership Lessons

As their freshmen group members painted wooden body pieces and attached limbs to their DIY robots, Peer Leaders Julia “Jem” Marriott and Miles Cogdell initiated a discussion about the words each group had ascribed to their robot – from “Dream Big” to “Love,” “Hope,” and “Faith.”

“Our word is ‘hope,’” said Jane Bailyn, who was partnering with Jordan Benoit on the robot project.  “Robots are perceived as heartless, so we wanted to choose a word that is the opposite of that.  Plus hope is pretty cool.”

The making and building of the toy robots, which were ultimately delivered to domestic violence victims at a center on Whitney Avenue, were part of a new initiative for Hamden Hall’s Princeton Peer Leadership Program.  Each Peer Leader group was tasked with using the leadership skills they’ve garnered thus far in the school year to help effect change within the community. 

“The implementation of your project should showcase to the community the positive change you are making, and should allow for the freshmen in your group to build group identity and have direct involvement,” Peer Leaders were instructed by their PL advisors, John Greenawalt, Chase du Pont, and Lisa Daly.

With six Peer Leader groups, six community service projects were executed.  Priscilla Kozdroy and Myles Van Allen started a Life Skills Course with their freshmen peers.  Students determined that they were interested in learning self-defense, first aid, adult living and budgeting.  Various faculty members were solicited to teach the topics.

“Now the freshmen will take the skills they learned and teach fellow classmates,” explained Priscilla.

Peer Leaders Luke Wilcox and Eylul Akman opted to implement a pay-it-forward project, replete with murals and random acts of kindness cards.  The murals depict general themes such as kindness, unity, community, and respect.  The pay-it-forward cards are little note cards that spell out thoughtful directives, such as “hold the door for someone.”  Once the holder of the card performs the random act of kindness, he or she is instructed to pass it along to the next person.

“We want this to start a chain reaction that can be seen rippling through campus,” said Luke.

Alyssa Blaise and Brandon DiCicco and their group of freshmen made blankets to give to cancer patients.  Students sat on the classroom floor surrounded by fleece fabric, cutting the edges in order to make fringe on each one.

“Our freshmen chose to make blankets because they felt that helping cancer patients feel supported and loved by the Hamden Hall community was what Peer Leadership truly encompasses,” said Alyssa.

Made popular several years ago thanks to social media, Sydnee Peterson and Daniel Draffan’s freshman peer group opted to do a teacher version of the ice bucket challenge.  Students were shown a video during an assembly that highlighted ALS (amyotrophic laterals sclerosis), for which the peer group raised funds, and then asked them to pay $1 to vote on which teacher they’d like to see dump a bucket of ice water on their head!  
Students were able to vote for Mr. Gustafson, Mr. Sokoloff, Mr. Greenawalt, Mr. Alexander, Mrs. Borelli, and Mrs. Mucciarone.  In the end, it was Mr. Gustafson, Mr. Sokoloff, and Mrs. Mucciarone who succumbed to the ice shower.  The fundraising effort brought in $250.

Liana Valin and Melvin Wells worked with kindergartners to create squares for a quilt that will be hung on campus when it’s finished.  Kindergartners were paired up with the freshmen students to create hand-drawn squares that depicted the future jobs the freshmen and their peer leaders hope to secure.

“This was the first time we’ve done this community service project and the Peer Leaders knew they had three weeks to research and implement,” said Mr. Greenawalt.  “The idea was to have the freshmen students experience and exhibit some of the leadership qualities that they learn about.” 

Hamden Hall Country Day School

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Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.