Teens talk to each other. Some adults remember spending hours on the phone with a friend when we were in school. Today kids are more likely to message each other, but the idea is the same. They share how they are feeling and the problems they are confronting. But do they have the skills to help each other? That’s where PeerConnection comes in.

PeerConnection is a program of Wilton Youth Council in collaboration with Wilton Youth Services and Middlebrook School. It is a unique opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students to work together to become more aware of, and enhance, their natural helping skills. The program is based on the premise that as young people grow older, they more often turn to friends whom they trust for help.

This summer the curriculum was updated and refreshed with fun new activities. Jeanne Carrillo, MSW, is the new leader, and is expecting big things by launching the reimagined program with this year’s students. Co-leading the program is Kaitlyn LaBonte, a Bachelor of Social Work honors student and Wilton Youth Services intern.

“I’m so excited to work with the PeerConnection students this year. Kaitlyn and I have interesting and fun new ways for students to learn, practice, and reflect upon their new skills,” Carrillo says. She adds, “We are looking for students who may already be a natural helper in the classroom or school community or who may be showing potential to do so.”

Students will build their skills and will walk away with their own set of tools they can use right away and in the future. The program teaches students how to help and support their friends and peers and contribute to creating safe and supportive school and community environments. Students will have the opportunity to learn, create, and engage in dynamic activities that will allow them to explore the issues and skills that are discussed. Each week there is opportunity for discussion, activity, and reflection.

Some of the topics covered will be effective communication, trust and team building, helping skills, self care and healthy limits, cyber dilemmas, and problem solving. There is ample opportunity built into the program for students to discuss what’s pertinent in their lives and the lives of their peers.

The program is open to middle school students in grades 7 and 8, with two opportunities to participate–one group meets Nov.-Feb., and the other March-June; each group is limited to 20 spots.

The first group will start in November–the first meeting is a daytime retreat on Saturday, Nov. 11 at Trackside, followed by 10 weekly sessions to take place on Thursdays at 3:30-5 p.m. beginning Thursday, Nov. 30, and following the Wilton Public School schedule.

This program has been generously supported and funded in part through a Raymond Ambler Trust Grant. There is however a $200 fee per student to help cover the cost of the program. Confidential scholarships are available if needed.

For more information, please contact Wilton Youth Services coordinator Colleen Fawcett, LCSW at 203.834.6241, ext. 1608 or via email.