When Cedar Middle School principal Dave Olney came up with the idea of having his adolescent students hear some encouraging words he knew just who to talk to: Joelle Hood, assistant principal of Mojave High School.

In recent years, Hood has overseen her students' involvement in Synergy Day, an innovative program that enables teens to help others their age through peer involvement and exercises designed to help students break through barriers.

Previously, Mojave students were on the receiving end when Apple Valley High School peer leaders helped them with their self-esteem issues. Olney believed select Mojave students, who have since received peer leader training, would be perfectly suited to lend a hand.

"What do you think about doing this for our middle school kids?" Olney asked Hood.

Hood agreed with Olney, and on Nov. 13 students and staff from both schools met for a day-long forum in a conference facility behind the school district office.

Under staff supervision, the students went through a series of exercises and met in groups. They shared their hopes and dreams. They opened up about fears and doubts.

"All of us felt we were all alone in our issues," Olney said. "It's normal to get stressed with the issues we all face."

Gradually students opened up to each other. Surly scowls became warm, inviting smiles.
"The Mojave peer kids have been just phenomenal," he said.

Olney believes the Synergy Day event will pave the way for greater rewards. After learning that their concerns and experiences are shared by nearly all teens, the Cedar Middle School students should be able to reach for the stars. Students should be able to concentrate better in school, he also hopes.

"We're dealing with people, not computers," Olney said. "We have to deal with the human qualities."