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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton High’s new peer leadership team honors local fire, police departments

Oct 31, 2017 11:38AM ● By Julie Slama

Members of Brighton’s new peer leadership team took a basket full of goodies to the local fire department on Sept. 11. (April Ball/Brighton High School)

When Tom Sherwood became principal of Brighton High this summer, one of the first things he did was approach Brighton teacher April Ball to begin a peer leadership team.

“When he asked if I wanted to teach it, he piqued my interest saying we provide service to the community,” Ball said. “I teach English and I wanted to advise this, give our students a chance to be in a different environment and help the community.”

At local high schools, the peer leadership team (PLT) devotes time and energy to promote a drug-, alcohol- and violence-free environment for the school and the community. The teams traditionally visit local elementary schools presenting the peer refusal skills to students through skits and songs, demonstrating bad situations such as cheating, stealing, lying, bullying, vandalizing and using drugs.

Ball, who has a fifth-grader, asked her child to tell her about the recent high school’s PLT visit.

“My kid liked it and said the high-schoolers taught them a lot of skills that they could use,” she said.

Brighton’s PLT plans to follow other schools by teaching fifth-graders at Bella Vista, Brookwood, Butler, Canyon View and Oakdale elementary schools the five peer refusal skills — ask what is going on; identify any trouble, because that could cause harm or be wrong; state the consequences, such as if someone could get hurt or in trouble; provide an alternative activity; and go somewhere else, but give a choice to the person suggesting the negative activity to join in another positive choice.

Ball also sees the 12-member team’s service extending to the community, which is what they did in September.

“We decided to honor our police and fire departments, so we gathered donations for baskets and delivered those on 9/11. We also handwrote thank-you messages that went along with the goodies,” she said.

Donations of money and items came in from local businesses as well, including Home Depot, Reams and Smith’s. One family donated gift cards from Gyro Gyro.

Students then supplemented the contributions with homemade brownies, granola bars, cookies, potato chips and other assorted snack items.

At the local fire department, students were invited to see the new Rosenbauer tractor-drawn-aerial unit. The newly acquired emergency vehicle is a tower truck with a water nozzle that reaches 100 feet high and has a 300-gallon water tank. It has a rear steering wheel to help make it maneuverable on tight corners.

“It was huge — the kind you could drive both in the front and back,” she said. “Both the fire and police department were so grateful we remembered them.” 

Senior Colton Evans said he liked giving gift baskets to the local police and fire departments.

“(It) made me feel gracious for all that they do for us in our community,” Evans said. “I know the risks and challenges that they face every day because my dad is a police officer and I love to hear the stories he tells me about his job.”

Senior Max Jackson said it was an honor to give thanks and honor those who serve and remember those who saved lives on Sept. 11. 

“Being a part of a project that could bring light to someone else’s life, and especially those who have seen traumatic things that I could only imagine or have only seen on an old video, is something that I took pleasure in and was humbled by,” he said. “The men and women who served on that terrible day deserve so much and the peer leadership team at Brighton gave our gratitude to those who we owe an enormous thank-you.”

Jackson also said this opportunity united the PLT.

“At the beginning of the course, I hadn’t the slightest idea of any of the current peers of mine. This project has brought me closer with all of my classmates, and has taught me personally how to work with others that I originally wouldn’t ever think that I would talk to. The experiences and relationships I have established in this PLT are unforgettable,” he said.

Brighton’s PLT is continuing to look at other opportunities to serve, from tutoring to helping with the elderly.

“When we work together, we can make a difference,” Ball said. “Already we’re making a difference as these students, many of them who didn’t know each other, have worked together and are learning and using leadership skills. They’re excited about coming up with more service ideas.”