Wilson students create Homebase initiative to bridge connectivity gap

Hadley Carr

The Wilson Peer Mediators and Student Government Association (SGA) have established the program Home Base which offers 15-minute meetings during asynchronous time on Wednesdays. Homebase aims to bridge connections and social interactions between students in a non-academic setting.

The idea that manifested last winter in a Learning together to Advance our Practice (LEAP) professional development session was originally an initiation of a Peer Mediator class at Wilson. However, given the virtual environment, Wilson wasn’t in a position to offer such a class. Instead, SGA and the Peer Mediators have joined together to offer an organic environment for students to interact. 

Each Homebase team is made up of fifty students, a peer facilitator, and a teacher. “The random assortment of the groups encourages communication outside of one’s friend group,” said junior and Peer Facilitator Regan Allvin. After hearing about the initiative through SGA, Allvin recognized the potential of the program, particularly how it “could possibly fill in that communicative crater plaguing many students.”

Run by peer facilitators like Allvin, the meetings will be an opportunity for students to learn and discuss a variety of information. The meetings will serve as an information base for students to learn about certain time-sensitive events, for instance returning to school in person. When the time arises where students must return, Homebase organizer and Advisor Marc Minsker says that the program may serve as a way to remind students to bring pencils, books, or masks, though the agenda of the club stretches far beyond simple updates. Students attending the meetings may also discuss monthly celebrations, Wilson-centered events, or engage in Kahoots designed by SGA—it is entirely up to student choice. 

Regardless of the agenda, both Allvin and Minsker suspect that garnering student interest will prove to be a definite challenge. Given that Homebase is optional and runs during asynchronous time, they worry students won’t be motivated to attend. The two are relying on the success of the first few meetings to boost student participation. Minsker is doubtful the meeting may ever reach 100 percent capacity, though he believes it is achievable to reach 60-70 percent once students begin to understand and engage in club meetings. 

Though difficulties may also surface through the peer facilitators themselves. Allvin worries that hostile peer facilitators may create an unsafe space. While the peer facilitators won’t initially be trained, Minsker hopes to begin lessons in using neutral language and facilitating discussions without bias to create a comfortable environment for students in the meetings to talk about larger societal issues. Overall, Minsker is not particularly worried about student hostility, but he does recognize the difficulty of starting a program virtually. “Do I think there are going to be a couple of hiccups?” asks Minsker, “absolutely. Do I think it’s going to get better as students become more comfortable? Absolutely.”

Homebase’s first meeting took place on October 7 at 3:30 pm. Peer Mediator Stephany Taylor had two to three students on her call, but some had no students at all. She has high hopes for Homebase, but like Allvin and Minsker, she believes the program may be faulted by a lack of participants. Taylor encourages students to join as a way to stay connected as a Wilson community. She adds that she is grateful for the organizers’ effort into helping distance learning “feel a little more normal.”