P4T Students: In Their Own Words

Project for Teens encourages healthy & responsible decision making for SPPS students

A group of Saint Peter High School students in grades 10-12 are working with Saint Peter Middle School students this school year as part of the Project for Teens (P4T) program, under the guidance of Shea Roehrkasse, Middle School health teacher.

“This year we have 38 student leaders in our group, and it is so fun to see high school students wanting to help other students in our district,” Roehrkasse said. “I am constantly getting the question, ‘When are the big kids coming again!’, which is a huge testament to the impact these leaders have on our middle schoolers.

“I think a big thing that makes this so impactful is that these leaders are able to pull from their own middle school and high school experiences and reach out to students in ways sometimes teachers can’t. My Health students feel very comfortable talking to them, and the different dynamics the small group discussions take each time are my favorite part to watch. In St. Peter alone these 38 students will interact with all 700 middle school students this year. I am so incredibly proud of everyone in our group and the work they do to help our student-body.”

Several of the SPHS Project for Teens participants took part in a brief questionnaire about their experiences working with the group. Here are there responses:

Q - What do you enjoy most about about being a part of Project For Teens?

Kenna Reese: I enjoy many different things about Project for Teens but the first thing that comes to mind when I'm asked about my favorite part is that many different kids are looking up to me. Today's youth want to grow up so fast, and that is leading to the exact opposite or what we are trying to preach to these kids.

Lily Elofson: My favorite part about being involved in Project for Teens is sitting down with all the young students in small groups and really getting to know them. Even if they don’t take anything from the skits we put on for them, they will remember our faces and be reminded of P4T. We usually talk in small groups for about 15-20 minutes each class and we ask the kids questions about their own lives. Some are really shy, while others open up to us right away. I think it’s very cool to connect with them.

Isaac Peterson: I love being a part of Project for Teens because of the kids that I get to work with. It’s awesome going into the classrooms and seeing how engaged some of the kids can get!

Ella Gilbertson: I enjoy working with the kids and especially the team. I like having a group that I feel comfortable around and when we present I feel more confident with everybody there.

Mia Hansen: The thing I enjoy most about Project for Teens is being apart of a group that stands for the things that I value, and teaching other kids things that I’ve learned through the program.

Zach Taylor: The things I enjoy most about Project for Teens is that I get to spend time with the younger kids and hear their thoughts on problems that occur in the schools K-12. Then I get to help them realize how bad these problems are and what they can do to people. Whether these kids are on task or not (which they usually aren’t) I think we both get a lot out of the presentations we give them because they learn how to prevent/help the problems like bullying and we get the enjoyment knowing that we may have changed their whole mindset on these problems. Project for Teens is also super fun for knowing the fact that these younger kids look up to us, which helps them pay better attention to us.

Q - What kind of response do you get from the younger students you work with during the school year?

Kenna Reese: This is my third year in Project 4 Teens so I have been able to experience a lot of different things. You will always come across kids that don't like it and aren't into the skits and discussion you are having with them but they are still getting stuff out of it. The kids that usually are acting out and say they don't enjoy what we are doing are the ones that are telling the rest of the class what they learned throughout the day and what they discussed in small group. With other kids it's the best part of there year. We could be presenting to a group of students and the next time we come back for a different grade they will ask when we will be back to present. A lot of them love just getting to hang out with older kids. Shea tells us if we weren't there he wouldn't be able to get the information across as well, which is so true, having us there is such a game changer.

Lily Elofson: The younger kids all respond differently. Some laugh, which is understandable, and some ask many questions. Being in middle school can be hard because it’s the time period where you’re basically trying to find your “place” and your friends. Even if they don’t show a lot of interest in class, they really do care. I’ve had kids contact me personally with questions via Snapchat and I think it’s awesome.

Isaac Peterson: The younger students can ask some really good questions in our discussion groups and are usually on top of the questions that we ask them. Some of the kids are super smart and bring up really good points to us!

Ella Gilbertson:The younger students really like having P4T come in and present. They love the skits and are very open in small group. You can tell they are very engaged and look up to all of us.

Mia Hansen: This is my first year being in P4T but I feel like the younger students get engaged with our skits and group discussions. I also think that since we are also students it’s easier for them to participate and it’s nice for them to have a familiar face around when they go to the high school.

Zach Taylor: The responses we get from kids are usually very interesting about what they think about on the topic we're on which is great, but sometimes we get they get a little off topic and we P4T have to get them back on track but from the beginning to the end of the whole presentation and group talks I think these younger kids get a lot of information in and realize how bad bullying can be.

Q - How has your work with Project For Teens affected your own lives?

Kenna Reese: This is so cliche to say but Project 4 Teens has truly changed my life. I have been able to reach out to students that I don't even know and help make the smallest change in their lives. I have also learned a lot about myself throughout the way. Not only has Project 4 Teens help me grow as a person but it has shown me that I feel strongly about the health of our youth and the decisions they are making, with this, it helps me figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Lily Elofson: P4T has affected my life a lot. This summer I was often put into pressure situations and I always think back to my morals/values and think about what it means to be in P4T and to be a leader. It’s also taught me that open communication is key in every single relationship.

Isaac Peterson: Project for Teens has impacted me in so many different ways. I know that I have to be a role model for these younger students and live up to all of their expectations. The students that I get to work with are awesome in explaining what goes on in their everyday lives to us, so we can better understand what middle school is like now!

Ella Gilbertson: Working with Project for Teens has helped me improve my leadership skills. It’s showed me how much these kids look up to us and how we all are role models for them. It challenges me to be the best person I can be knowing that I act as a leader for those kids.

Mia Hansen: I’ve definitely learned a lot already, and I have gotten to know a bunch of super cool kids that I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for P4T. It definitely pushes me to be a leader and be confident when it comes to speaking in front of a big group. I also think it is nice to have a team like P4T who can keep you accountable and be there for you when you need them.

Zach Taylor: Even though it’s my first year, Project for Teens has affected my life in a way that makes me feel responsible and accountable because of that fact that I know these kids look up to us high schoolers. In that view, I feel like I have to engage with them in the best way for them to understand so they get stuff out of it that will help them in the future. This all has affected my life because it’s giving me a chance to help these kids make good decisions for whole life and overall I love that I’m in this organization and I hope I can keep helping the young ones.

Project For Teens members for 2018-19 includes: Kaiden Burmeister, Isaac Peterson, Lauren Niemeyer, Ella Gilbertson, Maddie More, Liz Mitchell, Savannah Dorris, Lauren Mayer, Katie Engeldinger, Mia Hansen, Alyssa Hrdlicka, Kendra Lindquist-Ove, Kenna Reese, Jaimi McClintock, Paige Meyer, Rahima Jamac, Rahma Jamac, Breanna Hagen, Sarah Conlon, Izzy Lind, Sophia Lee, Lillie Elofson, Marlen Ramirez, advisor Shea Roehrkasse, Josh Johnson, Signe Alger, Ryan Braun, Zack Taylor, Carter Wendroth, Lizzy Quist, Vanessa Krueger, Warecke Gillette, Allie McCabe, Morgan Kelly, Daniel Nadeau, Carson Kennedy, Wyatt Olson, and Kiki Krueger.