NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Students are coming together to help each other through these challenging times, and in Queens, a peer counseling group is helping some teens cope.
The stress and uncertainties of COVID-19 make a lot of teens feel like they’ve got to grow up fast: Being responsible for remote learning while dealing with the loss of their old high school life, and in some cases the tragic loss of loved ones.
Ashleigh Requijo’s uncle, an NYPD detective, died from the coronavirus the day after Easter.
“It’s really upsetting because it’s like every number is a person, and every number is like, that’s a family who is struggling,” said Requijo, 17.
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She’s not going through the struggle alone, though. She’s part of a peer support group at her high school, Archbishop Molloy, in Briarwood, Queens.
Guidance counselor Kerry Henning moderates the student sessions which, due to stay at home orders, transitioned from meeting at school to video conferences online.
Meetings begin with participants asked to rate their life that day on a scale of 1-10.
Graduating seniors are trained to lead the group therapy, meeting 2-3 days a week, both during and after school hours.
“Boy, what a difference it’s made for these kids, during this stressful time,” said CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to vent and come up with some skills, coping skills to deal with what’s going on at home,” Henning said.
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“You can take your stuff off your chest very easily. And like with, especially in quarantine, there’s not many people to talk to,” said student Charlie McFadden.
Many of the students have family on the front lines or are essential workers.
“A lot of my aunts and uncles, they are nurses, or they’re in the NYPD, and it’s very scary to know that they’re still out there and they’re still working,” Requijo said.
“It’s kind of scary, and my dad’s also a firefighter, so he’s out there too,” said student Mary Kate Meade.
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Hearing peers have mutual fears and anxieties has been comforting.
“Especially now. This is really like, helping me. Because I get so much anxiety about, like, school, and, like, like, when is this going to be over. Are people gonna be OK? Is my family going to be OK?” said student Ava Tecza.
“With peer groups, it definitely gives us a sense of normalcy and stability,” said student Tia Onaifo.
Which is what these students say they need now, more than ever.