Nov. 22, 2022
By Julia Anthony
Every year, members of the freshman class receive mentorship from their peer leaders. This year’s Peer Group Connection consists of 10 seniors who have come together to support the ninth graders as they navigate the challenges of high school. These seniors work in pairs to lead sessions during freshman health and gym classes.
This month, The Lighthouse caught up with each peer leader to learn more about them and the contributions they hope to make to the program.
Kaitlynn Benjamin said she decided to become a peer leader because she has fond memories of her Peer Group during freshman year.
¨I hope to be an outlet for the upcoming freshmen and help in any way I can,” Benjamin said.
She said she likes seeing familiar faces in the hallway and knowing she has made a positive impact on the freshmen she meets.
“I am a good Peer Group leader because I am a good listener, and I am very open, so if anyone has any questions, I will always give an honest answer,” Benjamin said.
In addition to her membership in Peer Group Connection, Benjamin is in the Athletic Training Club, Law Enforcement Club and True Crime Club. She is also a member of the band and girls basketball team.
Elize Cardona said she joined Peer Group Connection to gain public speaking and leadership skills.
“I hope to gain more volunteer hours and have a better understanding [of] how to communicate with people and organize important events,” Cardona said.
She said her favorite part of Peer Group Connection is developing good relationships with her classmates and the freshmen she mentors.
“I use my good organizational skills to fulfill the tasks and have the time to commit to our freshmen,” Cardona said.
She said the toughest part of her role is keeping the freshmen focused and motivating them to participate in the planned activities.
Beyond Peer Group, Cardona said she enjoys being outdoors, hanging out with friends, ice skating, reading, spending time with her family and watching movies. She is also on the girls varsity volleyball team and creates visual elements for The Lighthouse.
Ana Gonzales said she became a peer leader to offer guidance to the underclassman.
“I wanted to help freshmen take opportunities in all of the activities, clubs and courses since I had help from upperclassmen to be involved in such [when I was] a freshman,” Gonzales said.
She said her favorite part about being a peer leader is developing a relationship with the students she assists.
“I enjoy having the freshmen come up to me for help and recognize me in the hallways,” Gonzales said.
Outside of Peer Group, Gonzales is involved in the Athletic Training Club, Future Business Leaders of America, International Culture Club, Italian Club, Law Enforcement Club, Medical Club, National Honor Society and World Language Honor Society.
Baney Montoya said he decided to join Peer Group Connection to guide the freshmen throughout the school year and create an environment where they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. As a peer leader, he said he hopes to offer a welcoming atmosphere for all the new students.
“[I enjoy] being able to come up with ideas to get the freshmen talking and interacting with each other,” Montoya said.
He said the hardest part about being a peer leader is making a genuine connection with the freshmen.
¨I remember how when a senior interacted with me, I felt a little intimidated, and I want to be able to let the freshmen know that I’ve been where they’ve been before,” Montoya said.
In addition to his participation in Peer Group Connection, Montoya is a part of the color guard, a 4-year varsity swim team captain and thrower on the outdoor track and field team. He is also the Art Club president and member of the Crochet Club, Law Enforcement Club and Unified Club.
Carolyne Mooney said she became a peer leader to set an example for the younger students.
¨I want to be a role model to the new incoming freshman. When I was a freshman, the Peer Group leaders I had made a major impact on me because I was scared of the huge change from middle school to high school,” Mooney said. “I was lost, but they were always there to help with any questions I had and helped me branch out into a new environment.”
She said her favorite part about being a peer leader is working with classmates she has known for so long because it brings back fond memories and gives her a nostalgic feeling.
“The hardest part [of being a peer leader] is missing my period 3 forensic science class because it fits with the freshmen’s health class schedule in order to have the Peer Group session,” Mooney said.
Mooney is an editor on The Lighthouse staff and a member of the Law Enforcement Club. She has played on the softball team since her freshman year and is part of the World Language Honor Society.
Kenneth Paglio said he joined Peer Group Connection to assist the freshmen in navigating their first year in a completely new environment.
“I want to help to relieve the nerves of the freshmen and make high school easier for them,” Paglio said.
He said the most challenging part of being a peer leader is maintaining control of the classroom when he is leading the freshmen.
“Being put in different situations and having to deal with a lot of freshmen at once [is difficult],” Paglio said.
He said he is able to be a good peer leader because he understands the hardships freshmen face since he was in their position three years ago.
Paglio is a member of the boys varsity soccer team and is a pole vaulter on the varsity outdoor track and field team. He is also a member of the Law Enforcement Club.
Henry Pinto said he decided to become a peer leader to help new students feel welcome, share stories about his own high school experiences and create a fun, friendly environment.
“I want to establish a great connection with all new freshman students in LHS and set a good example for them,” Pinto said.
He said his favorite part about being a Peer Group leader is getting to know the freshmen personally and being able to relate to some of the struggles they face. He said the trickiest part of being a peer leader is interacting with shy students.
¨[My goal is] to make students be more open and friendly, make them feel part of the high school and have someone they can relate to and build trust with,” Pinto said.
Pinto is the student body president and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and Law Enforcement Club. In his spare time, he enjoys going to the gym, spending time with family and friends and watching soccer.
Christian Romito said he was motivated to join Peer Group Connection because it is good training for his intended career as a teacher and because he has fond memories of his outreach sessions as a freshman.
“I hope to at least make one person’s high school experience better,” Romito said.
He said his favorite part about being a peer leader is helping students who are now in the same position he was in not too long ago.
He said being a peer leader is fun and rewarding even though it is not always easy.
¨The trickiest part is getting students to open up and talk to you,” Romito said.
Outside of Peer Group Connection, Romito enjoys being part of the Anime Club, playing video games and skiing.
Ashley Santi said she decided to become a peer leader to gain classroom experience since she aspires to be a teacher.
“I hope to help students who are new to the school have fun and get whatever aid they need,” Santi said.
She said she enjoys the outreach meetings and seeing the freshmen every month.
“The trickiest part about being a Peer Group Leader is speaking in front of a whole bunch of freshmen. I’m more known to be quiet and never speak, but this year I plan to overcome it because if I want to be a teacher and graduate college, I’ll have to gain my confidence,” Santi said.
Outside of Peer Group Connection, Santi is a member of the Anime Club. She enjoys playing soccer and video games.
Carter Walsh said he became a peer leader to follow in his older brother Jonathan’s footsteps.
“My favorite part [of being a peer leader] is being with other seniors [and] helping out the freshmen through their high school experience,” Walsh said.
Although he enjoys being a peer leader, Walsh said it can be difficult.
¨I think that the trickiest part is keeping up with my personal studies while also helping out freshmen,” Walsh said.
Outside of Peer Group Connection, Walsh participates in the Law Enforcement Club and Table Tennis Club.