As interest meetings for the next Peer Facilitator cohort roll around, I reflect on what I felt as a freshman applying to the Peer Program and the numerous ways this program has impacted my life. Truly, if you were to tell freshman-year Gisselle all that would come from being a peer for the last three years, she would not believe it.
I recall being so scared and anxious throughout the entire application process because of how much I wanted this role. Thankfully throughout the entire process I had the support of my Peers, Arianna Cruickshank and Ashley Francis. When talking to them about applying to the Peer Program, they said something I would go on to hear throughout the rest of the application process: “Just be yourself.” This is a phrase I had heard numerous times throughout my life but never fully embraced because I had always been trying to be a version of myself that appealed to others.
As the group interview and individual interviews came along, though I still carried a lot of self-doubt, it became increasingly easier to be myself. Alas, the day decisions were being released, I felt anxious that entire morning and kept refreshing the Peer Facilitator Instagram story to get updates. After updating their story every five seconds, I saw that only about 40 out of the over 100 applicants were selected and that made my heart sink.
Little did I know, a couple of minutes later I would get a FaceTime call from the then-Peer Interns, Victoria Piatti and Christian Rivera, telling me I had been selected as a Peer Facilitator. I loudly screamed in the Berrie Center when I received the news. The semester I applied to be a peer – the spring of 2019 – was one filled with dread and self-doubt, but being accepted into the Peer Program redirected my Ramapo journey in a way I could not imagine. For the first time, I truly believed how important it is to be yourself.
Having been a Peer for the last three years, I can say full-heartedly, and with tears in my eyes, that the most amazing thing that has come from being a Peer is meeting everyone in the program. It is so rare to find a group of people who have each other’s backs unconditionally and will support each other in such a loving way – I feel so blessed to have found that in the Peer Program.
The most heartwarming experience has been seeing some of my own peer kids become Peer Facilitators themselves and seeing one of my Peer kids even become the Peer Intern. Watching them grow as Peers and individuals has been one of the most touching experiences and I could not be prouder of them.
In general, seeing all of my Peer kids grow from shy freshmen to confident individuals who are making their mark on the Ramapo community has been one of the most beautiful things to witness. I feel so lucky to have had the most amazing students in my First-Year Seminars (FYS) throughout the past three years.
As I write this, the Senior Peers approach their final peer time, final time responding to students’ journals, the December Dinner and so many more “final” tasks and activities as a Peer, and it all feels bittersweet.
I’m sure I can speak for all Senior Peers when I say that our time as peers has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and one that we would not trade for anything. Whether it’s going to our FYS class twice every week, peer training, receiving late night GroupMe messages, etc., I know we’re all going to miss every aspect of being a peer come next fall.
There are truly not enough words in the English language to describe my love for everyone in the peer program, and I hold everyone in my heart. To anyone who will be applying to be a Peer Facilitator in the spring: remember to be yourself.