Students addressed various topics including common issues faced by students at their schools, as well as ideas on resolving those issues. They learned about the role they play in building a positive culture and being catalysts for change. Students participated in various activities that helped to create an environment of collaboration and where students share experiences and learn from each other.
Peer Leaders Uniting Students (PLUS) is a youth-facilitated program that utilizes social leadership qualities to connect students on campus. PLUS is an evidence-based program that has been incorporated in Student Leadership elective classes in secondary schools throughout Hemet Unified School District since 2010. The foundational goal of PLUS is for students to develop leadership skills and work as a team to promote student voice, inclusion, awareness, and wellness for all students on their campuses. This is accomplished using a model called Youth Participatory Action Research, which puts students in the driver's seat of identifying, researching, and taking action on potential or real-time issues on their school campuses. They are trained to analyze data and facilitate discussions among their peers, which allows these leaders to hone valuable interpersonal skills on their journey toward college and career readiness.
HUSD's implementation of the PLUS program has enabled advisors and students to connect to a broader school climate and safety network. Recently, HUSD’s PLUS teams were approached by researchers and program creators from the University of California Berkeley and students' feedback has been used in the creation of new initiatives across California. Program leaders are excited for additional leadership opportunities on the horizon for Hemet students to have an impact beyond the valley. "A very powerful aspect of PLUS is how students learn and practice valuable skills that will enable them to have a big impact on their peers and their schools, as well as to be positive forces in the community as problem-solvers, advocates, and world changers,” shared Heather Ramsey, Teacher on Special Assignment for Health Education & Student Agency. “We hope to involve even more students across our campuses moving forward and to increase community awareness of our students' efforts.”