Reflection: Teen PEP

To be a Teen Prevention Education Program leader you must be an extrovert. It is one of the most exclusive programs at PHS; although 100 students auditioned last year, only 28 students got in. Considering the typical Teen PEP workshop, which consists of funny skits and small-group discussion, that makes sense. For the workshop to be effective, the skits need to be entertaining and the small groups informative. Their extroversion, natural charisma, and ease in social situations are assets in the skits and discussions they lead.

So what could possibly be the issue with having leaders who excel at performing and teaching on stage? The answer lies with the many introverts and ambiverts of PHS. The Teen PEP program was created so younger students could learn from, relate to, and ask questions of peers instead of adults. However, the lack of diverse personalities among leaders hinders their relatability. While the extroverts will be able to connect to these similarly outgoing people, the introverts and ambiverts will not.

The program also lacks social diversity because the majority of the members are pulled from the same social circles. Friends goofing off onstage benefits no one but themselves. Freshman will be able to tell that this “diverse” group of people was not plucked from different levels of the social hierarchy who have bonded over teaching younger peers the wonders and dangers of sex. Seeing a group of friends fool around on stage lessens the audience’s connection to them. Friend groups are exclusive and close-knitted. Freshmen know this, and instead of feeling like their leaders are open to connecting with them, they’ll feel like an intruder.

To encourage relatability between the audience and the cast, the commonly held perception of Teen PEP leaders, that they all need to be outgoing extroverts, needs to be modified. The current application process—interviews and auditions—fails to consider a student’s thoughtfulness and discourages introverts from applying. By implementing a policy that is more inclusive of shy students and has varied application methods, the program will then be able to honestly display a group of diverse people who bonded over learning and teaching. The skits will still be funny, and the small-group discussions will still be educational, but with a more varied cast, the group will become more relatable.

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