Navigating Life as a Virtual Peer Leader

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MMC Peer Leaders are student leaders who help and guide new incoming Griffins throughout The Big Apple!

Being a new student and getting welcomed into the city life can be an overwhelming wave of emotions happening all at the same time. Will I like city life? Will I make any friends or will I miss home too much? Will no one like me or how am I going to navigate this big of a city? Will I be safe where I am staying in the dorms and on campus? How can I balance my social life with my college work? These questions swirl around in your brain, never really knowing where you are going to find your footing in a new place like college. Those feelings are normal for any new student transitioning into the first year of college, but you are not alone. There is a tremendous amount of support here to help guideway through everything while being a helping hand, they are called Student Peer Leaders. 

Student Peer Leaders are selected and trained to gain the necessary skills in being an asset to help and guide the new students throughout their first year of college. There are two separate training processes: one that happens in the fall and one that happens in the spring. The peer leaders that undergo training for the spring are all in preparation for the Griffin days summer orientation while the peer leaders that undergo training for the fall are in preparation for welcome week orientation programs. The training consists of one week where they learn different skills for multiple things. For instance, they learn how the school is handling the pandemic and ways they are keeping the staff/students safe at this time. Also, ways to be there for students and relating/understanding what they are going through communication skills and just letting it be known they are there for you. 

Being a big part of Griffin Days’ orientation for the new Griffins and also welcome week. Where the new students have the choice to participate in excursions all over the city, dipping their toes into all the exciting things city life has to offer. Griffin days immerse the students into what Marymount is all about and how to utilize resources here at the school to make their experience as good as possible. Making sure they know that they are safe here in the school and they are resources and support available if they feel otherwise. Trying to ensure the choice the new students made to attend Marymount was definitely the right one. 

These peer leaders provide such a big impact on these students being able to be face to face with them on a personal level. Helping new students not only on the academic level with questions about classes/major or even about the city itself but also how to be an active member of clubs or community work through the school. 

Acting as a big sister or brother there to lend a hand when you need them, helping you grow into the person you want to be. Being that one person you can go to that will understand what you are going through. The transition of being away from home for the first time, trying to find out who you are, and trying to make friends witho

ut knowing anyone.

While navigating a new and exciting city they will be there for anything you need. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, some parts of being a Student Peer Leader are restricted and went virtual. Hindering on some of the experiences a peer leader and their students get to experience together. Elizabeth King-Horn is a first-time student peer leader and we are going to take a look into how she is balancing being a peer leader online as well as in person with limited restrictions.

She is a sophomore majoring in Digital Media and Video Production but is exploring the possibility of double majoring in something with theater. Elizabeth, or also known as Liz, said:

So this is my first year as a Peer Leader, and it’s really weird starting in a Pandemic.

— Elizabeth Horn-King

Being a first-time peer leader she was automatically dropped into the virtual side of things because of the pandemic going on around us and didn’t really have a chance to be a peer leader without it hindering some of the experiences that come with being a student peer leader. Liz decided to become a peer leader because she did a similar program in high school, helping students adjust to new normals. Acting as that big sister and helping wherever she can. Liz also wanted to be more involved in the college community and thought becoming a peer leader would be the best thing to contribute to the college community. 

Liz is one of the student peer leaders that is not completely virtual and is able to take her students on excursions around the city. Seeing what nice and affordable activities you can do around the city. Following the social distancing guidelines of course, but being it is her first year it is a little more difficult than anticipated. Finding her grounding as a peer leader in a pandemic is somewhat strange because this year peer leaders are co-teaching the student’s college success workshops (workshops that bring you out of your shell while getting to know the people around you and know more about the school and city you are in) virtually and makes it difficult to do icebreakers. That you, as a new student, are trying to get to know people from your year, but it is hard to get personal with them over a screen. Liz stated, “It’s also difficult because not all of my students are here in the city and I’m sure they are experiencing [ the fear of missing out].” Those students are not able to see and experience the city through the eyes of a new student, but still have the same support of transitioning into college from being in high school; just all from the comfort of your home. Liz also brings that extra layer of support to those adjusting to being away from home by residing in MMC’s 55th Street Residence Hall. Unfortunately, not all peer leaders are able to stay in dorms and are supporting students but strictly virtual. So adding that little bit of help where everyone is isolating in some way or another makes a tremendous impact on those new incoming students. Making it known that they are not alone in this next stage of life. 

Being a student peer leader while also being virtual is not without its difficulties, but peer leaders like Liz ensure that students are given the support they need to be successful for their first year of college. Having access to resources they need no matter where they are. Even if they are in person or from the comfort of their own home, no matter the situation peer leaders will be there for you in this new and exciting time!