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Make Friends Early And Forever

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Sixteen-year-old Aaron Chandler was busy collecting parking fees at the Outhouse Orchards Apple-Picking Fest, but he stopped to chat for a few minutes about his work with the North Salem High School Peer Leadership Program.

The program under the aegis of the Guidance Department, is open to juniors and seniors and calls upon its members to welcome new high school students and mentor middle schoolers.

“One kid was a freshman and he was nervous about the work load,” Chandler said, describing his work. “He asked me how I handled it. I told him you have to stay on top of things. You can’t procrastinate.

“Another time I went to a freshman seminar and talked about friendship - how good it is to maintain your friends. I talked about how your friends change from middle school to high school because your interests change.

“I said, you have to make sure your friends have the qualities of a good friend. They should be loyal and trustworthy and make you forget your problems and make you feel better. If you ever find they’re not doing these things, then you need to re-think the friendship.”

Chandler has a brother who is 25 and a sister who is 20. “Siblings can also be your friends,” he pointed out. “The people I surround myself with are a lot like me.”

Potential peer leaders fill out an application asking questions like, “What does being a leader mean to you?” and “What qualities do you possess that would make you an effective peer leader?” Applicants are also asked to name two teachers who would recommend them for the program. The Guidance Department then gives a training session in listening skills, communication skills and the mediation process.

Chandler thought he might be ready to step up to peer mediation next year. “Basically, you sit down with kids with emotional or social problems. It’s completely confidential.” The Guidance Department describes the mediation process as “resolving conflict among students in a peacefully, appropriate manner.”

Chandler, a junior this year, has lived in North Salem all his life. Among his friends is  Wayne Outhouse’s nephew, Tommy Cole. “The scenery is beautiful around here,” Chandler comments. “The people are nice and it’s a very family-oriented place. Outhouse has been here forever.”

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