Community portrait: Student lends a hand to peers in need

By: Michael Kirby, Photographer
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Taylor Brady quickly admits he has always had a desire to help people. Brady is a senior at Placer High School and for the last two years has been involved with peer helpers on campus. Currently, he is president of the group. I had a good friend that was a peer helper and she really tried to get me to do it, Brady said. I joined the class, and it kind of just turned into something much more. I think most peer helpers get into it thinking it's an easy class, but then once you start doing it, it's like, wow, it really opens your eyes. The class is made up of 12 juniors and seniors who meet three to four times a week with Placer High teacher Joey Montoya, the peer advisor. Our main mission is to help freshmen and sophomore students adjust to high school life, Brady said. These years are can be very awkward and our group of juniors and seniors help them out. There is sincerity in Brady's voice as he reflects on what it's like to be taking the big step from middle to high school and how much some students struggle to gain their confidence. I think we all can remember how difficult that step can be; new friends, unfamiliar surroundings and adjusting to the workload of classes can be very trying for some students, he said. We make it our mission to talk to each freshman and sophomore at least once ““ twice if we can ““ during the year and let them know that we're here to for help them if they have any problems or need anything. The peer helpers also visit any students that are referred by a teacher or administers. It's all one on one. We split it up and we each have about 60 contacts, so if we do see a student having troubles we've already met them once and at least know a little about them, it makes it easier for them to open up, we're not just some stranger, Brady said. Looking for friends, having trouble getting along with a teacher, and combating a rumor are some challenges that peer helpers deal with as they meet with underclassmen needing a sympathetic ear. More serious problems that sometimes come to the surface are, of course, referred to the school counselors and other authorities who are professionally trained to handle sensitive issues. Everything is confidential and we're mandated reporters, so if someone says that they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, we have to report that to the authorities, he said. As president of the peer helpers class, Brady's duties include making sure other peer helpers are on task and training new peer helpers. The group is also very involved in the community and as a class they help put on several events during the school year, with 20 percent the proceeds going to the Auburn Food Closet. They help run food drives, a shindig to help students study for finals, spaghetti dinners, and Placerpalooza, as part of a group effort with Placer High's leadership club. Placerpalooza is a carnival and Battle of the Bands competition, the latter of which the peer helpers organize. All proceeds go to the Food Closet. Brady is headed to Humboldt State College after graduation and plans to major in psychology and minor in early childhood development, an interest that was fostered by being a peer helper. The peer helpers class has kind of led me to a possible career as a counselor, Brady said. Brady lives in Auburn with his mom and dad, younger brother and sister. In his spare time he likes karaoke, Guitar Hero and hanging out with friends.