Peer Leader Programs
Since 2001, TL@W has successfully structured its program around the conviction that youth --with training and support-- have the capacity to successfully lead a program that addresses important young worker safety concerns. TL@W peer leaders plan and monitor annual program goals; plan, facilitate, and evaluate workshops; educate their peers; and discuss complex workplace safety issues and policy with key officials.
During the school year, 6-10 peer leaders are employed three days a week from 3:30 to 5:30PM and during the summer, 20 teens come five days a week from 10AM to 4PM. In addition to being coached and supported by each other, peer leaders are guided by alumni of the program, an Americorps Promise Fellow and a youth coordinator. TL@W alumni return to support and mentor current peer leaders and benefit from academic and career support, and links to internships.
New peer leaders go through a two week train-the-trainer program conducted by their more experienced peers. They gain teaching, facilitation and leadership skills as well as knowledge of the content needed to educate and engage other youth around worker safety and the prevention of sexual harassment and violence. The majority of TL@W peer leaders continue with the program throughout their high school years. Each year, they are given the opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready to move to a higher level of responsibility along with a commensurate increase in pay.
Job Safety and Sexual Harassment/Violence Prevention Workshops
TL@W peer leaders lead youth-focused interactive workshops for youth in Greater Boston each year. Workshop topics include young worker rights in the workplace, sexual harassment, workplace emergencies, hours and wage laws, hazards in workplace and child labor laws/reforms. The aim of the workshop is to not only educate youth on young worker safety issues but also to identify their priority concerns and encourage their involvement in promoting safety and health. The focus on empowering youth through leadership positions and teen-to-teen dialog allows these workshops to create a unique and long lasting impact on the community’s young people.
Girls/Boys Empowerment Sessions
Girls Sessions grew from a conversation raised by female peer leaders about the support they said they needed around a host of very personal and gender-specific issues. Soon Girls Sessions became a regular part of the program, with topics ranging from trying to understand how boys see girls, to body image, low self esteem and violence. Follow-up includes further support sessions with staff or referrals to professional counselors. To support the youth in identifying and working to reach their goals, the teens are asked to write “reflections”-- to think about and write down skills they want to attain and where they see themselves in 5 months and in a year. They then identify the steps that will get them there and they continue to refine their goals and plan as they move through the program.
Public Policy Action: MassCOSH teen leaders identify priority worker health and safety concerns and take action to promote policies to address them. MassCOSH peer leaders were instrumental in the passage of Child Labor Law reforms, passed in 2007. As a result of their leadership and the involvement of many other youth, unions, and occupational health professionals, the Attorney General now has the ability to cite and fine employers who violate the Child Labor Laws. The new law also prohibits employers from leaving young workers alone without supervision after 8 PM, or use a gun as part of their job. By engaging the youth in the civic process, they not only have an important positive impact on policies that affect them, they also gain faith in civic society and the important role they play.
Alumni support and involvement
TL@W offers its alumni, those who have aged out of the program, help and support as they move from entering college to becoming employed –and involves them as mentors for current youth. Alumni are linked to internships, provided with assistance in applying for financial aide, and receive help with resume development. They in turn stay involved as volunteers or interns, supporting current peer leaders and serving as role models.