Good advice from your peers is rare when you are growing up, but imagine if your friends were life coaches.
Family Education Initiative (F.E.I), a multi-service nonprofit organization, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, has elevated teen peer mentoring by teaching Middle and High school students how to be life coaches. F.E.I’s mission is to improve the quality of life for youth, families, and communities.
F.E.I partner, Susan Westbrook, a veteran educator, and professional life/ business coach explains life coaching as “a process that helps people accomplish their goals by taking a deeper look at their values and strengths, to help them be their best.” Stereotypically used by executives, middle and high school students do not usually use life coaches, however; due to the increasing academic, safety, and social pressures students face, it makes sense. Gale McKoy Wilkins, founding director of F.E.I, thinks that life coaching is the answer to school safety & student success we have been waiting for,
“School safety, mental health, substance use, and the perceived need to bring a weapon to school were the most prominent concerns within the communities we serve. A lot of kids in our education system are faced with pressures and do not know how to handle them. However, we at F.E.I. understand the importance of education and hope that our program Project Arrow can positively change communities using life coaching practices.”
Project Arrow is F.E.I’s leadership program that uses peer mentoring to train students on how to be life coaches and is the first to implement life coaching in schools. However; more noteworthy,
FEI understands that teenagers are more influenced by their peers’ opinions than they are by adults, and uses that to their advantage.
Tori Willis, grant administrator for F.E.I states that,
“Most teenagers are exposed to substance abuse, bullying, and mental health challenges before they reach age 15; thus, it is essential that we equip our youth early with the tools they need to be successful and make good decisions.”
2018/19 was F.E.I’s first year in North Carolina’s school system, and they have already seen a positive change in the community and students involved. This testimonial from a middle school student who graduated from the program conveys its positive impact,
“Issues like bullying and substance abuse are progressively getting worse in schools, and programs like Project Arrow can create a generation of students that care and can help others with these issues. Project Arrow has given me the confidence to help other students and myself, and that is priceless. They need this everywhere, at all schools.”
That was just one of the many testimonials given by students involved in Project Arrow that explain how the program helped them with a myriad of topics such as relationships, effective communication, emotional awareness, violence, and others. These are serious issues that adults struggle to grapple with; it is extraordinary and refreshing to see teenagers comfortably discuss these topics.
Susan Westbrook agrees and thinks that programs like Project Arrow help outside of the classroom also stating that,
“Students have struggles and challenges in their life, and sometimes, those prevent a student from being as successful as they could be both in and out of school. Coaching programs like Project Arrow allow students to be all of who they can be, not just in the classroom but outside of the classroom and then in life after school.”
F.E.I is looking to expand, and founder Gale Wilkins wants to see life coaching taught in every school in North Carolina. If you have questions about the program or want to connect, please contact 919.824.7528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl Wilkins II