On any given day at the Academy, it is not uncommon to see Cadets with a blue and orange cord slung over their shoulder, but it often becomes lost in the myriad of other colors on display. It’s not difficult to walk past a Cadet wearing this cord and not give it a second thought, but to the ones who wear it and the people they have helped it means the world.
Let me elaborate further - the blue and orange signify that a Cadet is a Peer Counselor, one of roughly 20 to 30 who work hand in hand with the Counseling Department.
Peer Counselor Training
To completely understand this group, you need to know the process of becoming one. It all begins with a survey, and if you are named by two or more Cadets then you are given the opportunity to attend the Peer Counseling training session. The adult counselors and Cadets all take an open weekend to meet for 5 hours on a Saturday and Sunday. Over these two days, they are taught everything from identifying personal issues to calmly resolving conflicts.
One of the most memorable moments from this year’s training was a story that our head counselor, Ms. Brown, told us about a previous Peer Counselor. He had noticed a Cadet’s erratic behavior and instinctively went to talk to him for further detail. This simple action that prevented the student from making a serious, life-altering decision. A story like that which ties everything you learn together and gives it a practical purpose instead of tedious lecturing; I’ll certainly never forget it.
Despite the serious nature of our training, the group activities were always a light-hearted and fun way to demonstrate what we learned and showcase our own ideas. Beginning on Friday, we all had the ambition and commitment, but by Sunday’s end we had the skills necessary to help those in need. Thankfully those skills will most likely only be used to calm an irritated Cadet or lift up one from an emotional low, but we’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if something more serious comes up, we’ll be prepared.
Conclusion of the School Year
A Peer Counselor’s year is concluded with an annual trip that varies from year to year. This always ends up becoming everyone’s favorite day simply because of how much fun we all have. Based on last year’s pizza dinner at the bowling alley, it’s safe to say that this year’s trip to the puzzle rooms will be even better.
Being a Peer Counselor means more than wearing a cord on your uniform or eating pizza, it’s the satisfaction you get from helping someone keep their life from falling apart, and that is more valuable than words can describe. As I reflect on my short time as a Peer Counselor, I don’t regret a single moment and would gladly do it all again.
Special thanks to Cadet Vanness Zhu '16 for writing this guest post.