A peer support network will look different based on the goals of the group. The groups will consist of several students and a facilitator who guides meaningful group discussion and ensures all students are heard. Overall, the goal of a peer support network should be to help students find commonality and start relationships with their peers.
The following are examples of different types of peer support networks.
For LGBTQ students, gay-straight or queer-straight alliances (GSAs/QSAs) provide a vital space for them to feel unconditionally welcomed and accepted in school. These groups also help interested students and teachers learn and understand how to become effective straight allies for their LGBTQ peers in the fight to end homophobia and transphobia.
An inclusive school means that every student feels welcomed, accepted and supported no matter what their situation is. At some schools, students will take an active role in helping ensure that everyone feels welcomed.
One example of this is the creation of a peer support network for students with disabilities, where students may come together to help those with disabilities become more involved with extracurricular activities.
This particular kind of peer support network would offer students with disabilities the opportunity to develop social and independence skills. The peers supporting them also gain an understanding and appreciation for diversity, as well as increased advocacy and leadership skills. Both sides of this network would have the benefit of new friendship and a greater attachment to school, as well as an increased sense of self-esteem.
Some students simply have trouble connecting with others in classroom settings, making it difficult for them to find a group during non-instructional times. One way to help foster a sense of connection with students who are more introverted is to set up an informal peer-support network during lunch time. A facilitator can simply offer a space for students to connect with others through games, film or conversation. The group might not have had a chance to interact without the peer support opportunity.
Social justice groups can be an opportunity for students to discuss a wide range of human rights topics that they are passionate about, such as gender equality, international conflicts, environmental issues and much more.