Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hoggard Peer Partnership

By Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M. is a student volunteer for North Carolina Virtual Public School. She is the founder of Hoggard Peer Partnership, a peer assistance program at her high school. This article describes the journey of starting her program and offers advice on what it takes to start an organization. 

I began volunteering with the North Carolina Virtual Public School’s Peer Tutoring Center in the summer of 2015, and through my volunteer work I discovered the Peer Tutoring Center’s Virtual Buddy Program. As a Virtual Buddy, I serve as a guide for NCVPS students who need additional support in their courses, assisting with time management, study skills, and course navigation. I’m passionately involved with all my Virtual Buddies, relishing in their progress as much as I would in my own, and I’m currently the student lead of the program. Developing personal relationships with my peers from across the state felt incredibly special to me, and I knew there were students at my face-to-face school who could benefit from a service similar to the Virtual Buddy Program.

I saw a need at my school for additional resources that students could take advantage of as they advanced in their academic goals. My school is good at promoting upcoming college visits, test dates, scholarships, guest speakers, and other educational opportunities, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like students are getting all the information they need. I also noticed that many students were stressed under the pressure to do well in class, and I wanted to takes steps to address these issues.

My Vision:
I wanted to provide a service where students could be paired with a peer mentor or partner who could provide advice and support in areas in and out of school. From this goal I conceived Hoggard Peer Partnership. The program aims to help students seeking to improve their study skills, build their confidence, and create social and academic connections. Students have the opportunity to learn more about course offerings and educational opportunities at my school through working with knowledgeable peer volunteers.

Building the Foundation:
  • Every club at my school has to have a faculty sponsor, so I asked my school guidance counselor if she would be interested in sponsoring the program. She accepted, and we met over the summer to discuss program goals and logistics (recruitment of volunteers, advertising to the student body, student application process, training for volunteers, nature of peer partnerships, etc.).
  • My school hosts a club fair at the beginning of the school year to give the student body a chance to see the organizations the school has to offer. Club participation in the club fair is optional, but it is a huge event every year at my school, drawing massive crowds. I created a tri-fold to advertise the goals of my program, and I made a flyer to hand out to passersbys and interested students. I had a signup sheet where students could write down their contact information. I wasn’t sure how many people would sign up, but I was aiming to have about 10 volunteers in the program to start. I had 30 people write down their names by the end of the hour long event (which I was thrilled about!).

Starting up the Program:
  • Training weeks: Before Hoggard Peer Partnership could start helping students, volunteers had to go through training. For the first six club meetings, I organized a short lesson and a related discussion covering communication skills and areas I expected students to need assistance with, including note taking and time management.
  • Name Change Game: Initially, I named my program Hoggard Helpers Peer Mentoring Group, but discussion with the club’s volunteers led me to changing the name to Hoggard Peer Partnership.
  • Google Forms! I created a Google Form where students could request a peer partner. Students select what areas they are looking for help in, and volunteers filled out a similar form so I could make appropriate volunteer to student matches later.
  • Advertising: In order to draw interested students to the program, I organized an open house during my club’s usual meeting time for students to come and socialize with peer partners. I wrote an announcement for the open house to be read on my school’s intercom system, and a Hoggard Peer Partnership volunteer made an advertisement to hang in the halls. I also worked with my faculty advisor to spread the word about the open house through the school staff.

Mission in motion:
  • Currently, we have seven students working with Hoggard Peer Partnership volunteers, and we have about ten volunteers in the program.
  • We are working on setting up a club website where students can find out more about the program, request a peer partner, and sign up as a volunteer all in one place. We are also setting up social media accounts to advertise the program and give students another way to learn more about what Hoggard Peer Partnership does.

If you are interested in starting an organization at your school, here is some advice for you to consider:

  • Be sure to listen to the members of your group. You’re still the leader, but being open to new ideas will improve your program.
  • Google Drive is a great tool for making everything from typed documents to graphics. All you need is a free gmail account to access Google Drive. Also, Google Drive has a great collaboration system so you can work on documents with others in real time.
  • Make a mission statement. Creating a mission statement will help you stay focused on the goals of your organization and provide your school’s student body with a clear idea of what your group plans to accomplish. Re-reading Hoggard Peer Partnership’s mission statement (“Our mission is to provide guidance and support to students seeking self-improvement”) gives me motivation to keep going when I face challenges related to the program.
  • Keep an attendance log. Over time, you will see the students who are really devoted to your organization, and knowing this information will allow you to delegate tasks appropriately and trust they will be completed.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate and ask for help with tasks. Make the best of your group members’ expertise, whether it is their talent for art or their familiarity with building websites.
  • Advertising has been the most challenging part of starting Hoggard Peer Partnership. It’s difficult to capture the attention of your school, so don’t get discouraged if your first round of promotional materials doesn’t make waves.
  • Network with your school’s teachers and other faculty members. They can often help you promote your group in their classes or provide you with a meeting space. Also, talking to your school’s staff is an excellent way to improve your own speaking and communication skills.


  1. Elizabeth, what a difference you are making! We are so proud of you at NCVPS!

  2. Elizabeth, I'm so proud to have you represent the NCVPS PTC. Your leadership in the program is so evident. I know your school will benefit from your expertise and knowledge. I hope your program at your school is very successful.

  3. Elizabeth, you are the kind of student every teacher dreams of having. You've taken what you learned and you are using it to teach and build up others. I am so thankful to have you in our PTC. You are making a difference in our world every day!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write about your process! I plan to use this as an intro activity in my courses this spring.

  4. Wow, this is so inspiring! I think it's great that you are so active in PTC. After reading this article, I recognize some of the same struggles in my school. My school offers a lot of opportunities to learn more information about colleges, courses, tutoring, etc. but it is not very well communication and therefore not always utilized to its full extent. Your program seems like it would help students who are looking to get more info and better succeed. It also seems like it would be a huge stress reliever to have someone to talk to about this kind of stuff. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. This is great! Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Helping others is one thing that isn't seen enough in this world. The fact that you had a vision of peers mentoring and helping out one another is a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing!

  6. You are a very helpful and caring person. Not many people are passionate and determined about helping others. Helping others takes a lot of patience and understanding. It's great what you're doing. Keep it up!

  7. This is absolutely incredible! You worked so hard to accomplish this. You definitely are the pure example of you can do anything you put your mind to. This takes some serious motivation, ambition, and a kind heart. It takes a special person to do something like this to make others lives better and easier. I can tell that you are going to be amazing at whatever you aspire to be.

  8. This is an amazing act of kindness you are showing to other students who need help. All of the students in your program are lucky to have you as a model. Peer Tutoring is something that I have not done much with but it is a great program for students and teachers alike. This is going above and beyond the call of duty. You are gifted and should be very proud of what you have accomplished for so many other students.

  9. Elizabeth- I am thrilled by this project. You are helping your peers and practicing key leadership skills. Thank you for thinking about the training part of this. It is easy to overlook and without it folks will be floundering. Thanks for your leadership.

  10. I will not be surprised to see you on "Shark Tank" someday! Impressive, Positive Impact-4-Corners! Where do I sign up for your fan club! :) Keep the torch burning, young leader! Others need your light...

  11. Wow, Elizabeth, you are a great example of the youth leadership that will lead our country. Thanks for taking your skill sets that you developed in the PTC and using them to meet a need at your school.
    May other students read your initiative and may they be inspired to be an instrument of change. You have shared some valuable tips to help others start a school-based Peer Partnership! What an awesome article, and you are an inspiring young lady! Thanks for being this great example for all of us!

  12. Elizabeth, the progress and changes you've made at your school have undoubtedly changed students' lives. School, or at least certain school subjects, can be very very challenging for students at any level. Personally, I've learned that students best receive instruction from primarily amazing teachers and peers. If this program were available at my school, I think dozens of students would take advantage of the opportunity, especially in the math department. I think this is a wonderful idea, and hopefully it will spread to schools throughout the nation!

  13. What you're doing is incredible! I wish my school had a tutor system like Hoggard Peer Partnership. It would really make a difference and help a lot of students. I know a lot of people who have said they'd do something or who have said they want to do something. But you had a vision, and you worked to make that vision reality! That dedication is inspiring!

  14. Wow! This is absolutely amazing! What great ideas you have! You are truly making a difference! One thing I wish we did have was the club fair! We have very few clubs, and the ones that do exist are barely advertised! I´m considering on asking my principal if we could do that ! This is truly inspiring!

    1. Karla, it only takes one person to get it started. It could be you that gets the club fair going!

  15. NCVPS & Hoggard are so lucky to have you! Thanks for all you're doing :)

  16. This is awesome! I started a miniature writing center at my own school and I had a lot of fun with helping other students, but you definitely went the extra mile!

    1. Thank you Aimee! Does Ms. Seastrunk know about your experience with creating writing centers? The PTC currently has one in development.

  17. Elizabeth this is amazing I am so proud of you!!! I loved reading about your journey and all the things you have done to accomplish your goal it is truly amazing!!
    - Danielle "Ali" Woods

  18. Elizabeth, your peer partnership program is an amazing idea! I am sure that many people have benefited from this program and are very grateful for your amazing work. I hope that this inspires others to also start these kinds of programs at their schools so they can help their fellow classmates.

  19. This is incredible Elizabeth. It is very admirable that you saw a need and took it upon yourself to fill it. At my school, we have a large tutoring program and it amazes me just how much it is beneficial to students and how many students take full advantage of the resource. Your program is providing just such a useful resource for students and it will grow. Great job!

  20. Great job with the program and I really appreciate the tips! I started similar at my school using signup genius and would really like to grow the program from its infancy, so I really appreciate the advice. Keep up the great work.
    - Hana Kamran