Plymouth Whitemarsh High School students who want to cultivate an inclusive and welcoming environment in their school took part in Anti-Defamation League (ADL) World of Difference Institute Peer Training program this week.
This year, 37 students are being trained so that they can then lead activities and workshops with ninth-graders during Bonus Block time periods at the high school throughout the year. Representatives from the ADL and teachers Amanda Edwards and Lee Gould helped lead the three days of training. During their time together, the students learn about explicit and implicit bias, take part in role-playing exercises, and work in small groups to practice activities that they will lead with their younger peers to help them understand and address incidents that may occur related to bias, bullying, and online aggression.
In one role-playing exercise, the students acted out bias-incident scenarios and were then asked to identify which person played the role of the bystander, the ally, the target, and the aggressor. Such exercises are meant to help students understand the roles that people have when an incident unfolds and prompt them to think about how they may react or respond should they witness something in real life.
The students were then encouraged to work in small groups to prepare for an activity that they would lead with ninth-graders in a few weeks. Sklyer Alten, Abby Edwards, and Luce Allen collaborated together and said the training has prepared them well for future interactions.
All three students were inspired to join the Peer Training program for different reasons, but shared similar goals of wanting to create a welcoming environment for other students.
Abby, a senior, said as a freshman she was inspired by another student who was already involved in the Peer Training program.
“I was like, ‘Wow, she’s really making everybody feel welcomed and included here, and I want to be a part of that, too,’’’ she said.
Luce said last year as a freshman, it was a goal of theirs to help create a more inclusive environment in high school, and after researching the program, it was obvious becoming a peer trainer would be the next step in making that goal a reality. Skyler also wanted to be a part of something that would enhance the school experience for all.
“I really liked what they stood for, the program itself, it was all about building inclusivity,” she said.