New federal investments help expand, study school-based peer mentoring

Margo Ross, Managing Director of Communications & Development for Center for Supportive Schools
October 31st, 2017
Posted In: Education, In Real Life, Mentoring Partnership

For nearly 40 years, the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) has worked to create caring, vibrant school communities by activating the schools’ most underutilized and powerful resource: the students themselves. Substantial investments from two federal agencies will help CSS bring our evidence-based strategy of peer mentoring to over 6,000 students over the next three to five years.

These awards will enable CSS to implement and study the impact of a school-based, cross-age peer mentoring model known as Peer Group Connection (PGC) in 26 middle and high schools in high-need communities. CSS was selected as one of 16 grantees, out of more than 375 applications, for the U.S. Department of Education’s $95 million Education Innovation and Research (EIR) 2017 competition. With this funding, CSS will expand its middle school transition and cross-age peer mentoring program for 6th grade students, known as Peer Group Connection-Middle School (PGC-MS), into 10 middle schools, serving 1,500 students across four states.

PGC was an exciting experience for me because our older peers related to us and helped us through things – they’ve been through everything that we are going through.
– Malachi, 7th grade student at IS 349, Brooklyn, NY

PGC-MS is the middle grades version of CSS’s flagship peer mentoring program, Peer Group Connection-High School (PGC-HS), an evidence-based program that supports and eases students’ transition into high school. A 2017 Multi-State Mentoring Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, will bring this program to 16 high schools, serving 4,560 students across six states.

These awards represent significant investments by the federal government into understanding how peer mentoring can help schools across the country reimagine and repurpose existing resources to combat the disengagement and poor student outcomes that, sadly, define the middle and high school experience for too many students. Across all types of communities, transitions into middle and high school can destabilize students and are often marked by declines in academic achievement, competency beliefs, motivation, and self-esteem. Left unaddressed, these serious problems can result in devastating long-term consequences including dropping out of school.

PGC supports incoming middle and high school students (9th graders or 6th graders) by immersing them in safe, supportive groups led by older peer mentors. Carefully selected older students (11th and 12th graders in high schools; 8th graders in middle schools) are trained as part of their regular school schedule in a daily, 45-minute leadership development class to become peer mentors and serve as positive role models and group facilitators for their younger peers. Peer mentors work in pairs to co-lead groups of 10 to 14 younger students in regularly scheduled (three to four times per month) sessions in which the younger students participate in engaging, hands-on activities.

Rutgers University conducted a randomized, 4-year longitudinal study of the effect of PGC-HS on 4-year cohort graduation rates at one high school in an urban community serving an economically disadvantaged population. Results indicated that PGC improved graduation rates of participants by nine percentage points and improved the graduation rates of male participants by 18 percentage points.

With these new investments, we will leverage the significant potential of peer mentoring to create safer and more supportive, engaging, and inspiring schools that enable and inspire students to care about each other, learn vital life skills, and ultimately become engaged citizens of their school communities.



The Center for Supportive Schools (CSS) helps schools become places students want to be. We advance the efforts of schools across the country to develop all students into leaders who help make their schools safer and more supportive, engaging, and inspiring.  Our impact can be seen in the experiences of 425,000 students across 500 schools.

One Comment

  • Congrats on the grant CSS team! Peer Group Connection is such an innovative model – I love the way it blends peer leadership, mentoring and group work! Keep up the great work.

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