Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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RISE: More than a Little Help from Friends

One student’s idea has become a full-fledged peer-to-peer support program that is shaping the campus culture.

The college experience is exhilarating and fulfilling, but often, just as equally demanding. Georges Pichard ’13 knew that students at Simon’s Rock look after each other and confide in one another to vent and navigate difficulties. Yet, he imagined taking this dynamic a step further, amplifying it to create a more organized peer-to-peer support network on campus that would be available and responsive to all students. So, he decided to act.

Georges soon reached out to fellow Rockers Jacques Ben-Avie ’14 and Saisha Manan ’14 to explore the idea of a student-run helpline, and what began as one student’s spark, then three, has become a full-fledged support program with trained student counselors, educational programming, and professional support: Rockers for Intervention, Support, and Education—or simply, RISE.

RISE student group

George, Jacques and Saisha swiftly explored options to make their vision a reality. They collaborated with a variety of campus offices, recruited more student members, and solidified an official plan of action. Within a matter of months, RISE launched their call-line, which is now open every night from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Students call in by phone or connect using Google Hangouts to talk about anything from academic struggles to more personal concerns. A RISE counselor is there to listen, to help the caller feel more grounded, and, if needed, to connect them to additional campus and community support services. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

Building a Culture of Positivity and Support

Into its second year, RISE has become a key organization that is actively shaping a positive campus culture. RISE played an important role during Arrival Day and Orientation Week at the start of the 2018-19 academic year. They met with all new students and families and led activities during Writing and Thinking Workshop to lay the foundations for a resilient and supportive learning community. They offered mindfulness and grounding techniques and hosted a student-only conversation for first-years to express concerns and ask questions about how to manage the stress that often accompanies a rigorous college experience.

RISE students meeting

Throughout the school year, RISE will host periodic educational events that open up conversations about challenging issues such as substance abuse and addressing cultural barriers and differences. RISE also plans to dedicate a week to the importance of self-care — “Treat Yo’ Self Week,” in collaboration with the Office of Campus Life. Another key effort of RISE is to connect students to the array of student support resources that already exist on campus that students might not know about including academic support, health and wellness, disability services, equity and inclusion, international and immigrant support, financial aid, and campus safety.

The training process increases campus resiliency, and gets students to actively think about how to address student concern and student need.

-Jacques Ben-Avie ’14
RISE Co-founder

Student-Led, Professionally Supported

Campus Life staff member Rachel Duvall is a licensed clinical social worker and the RISE supervisor. She trains the student counselors and provides continual mentoring. During the training, RISE counselors become adept at active listening techniques and attuned to common social and academic challenges facing students. They also learn about every support resource that is available to students. So far, 50 students have completed RISE training to become counselors, with 26 currently on rotation serving their fellow classmates, an impressive number for this small community.

Rachel Duvall, RISE supervisor

RISE is helping build trust and community at Simon’s Rock. I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m proud to work with the student counselors and watch RISE grow.

-Rachel Duvall,
RISE Supervisor and Title IX Coordinator

The RISE program is emblematic of the character of the student body at Simon’s Rock—compassionate, intelligent, and motivated. Rockers are engaged with their community and don’t shy away from putting their ideas into practice. Whether it’s initiating an effort to update policies in the student handbook, inaugurating Pride Week on campus, or championing reforms for food sustainability with dining services, students at Simon’s Rock are actively shaping their campus experience. RISE is a powerful example of what young people can accomplish when they have trust, faith, and support to create their own paths.

Since it was initially conceived, RISE has demonstrated responsiveness and flexibility in meeting individual student needs and promoting a healthy campus culture; an instinct for collaboration in working with other support services; and an impressive thoughtfulness with regard to leadership development and sustainability. This wholly student-generated and student-driven effort is one of the most exciting initiatives of the past several years, and I look forward to seeing its continued growth and evolution.

-Leslie Davidson,
Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer

RISE meets Sundays at 11:00 a.m. in the Informal Lounge of Livingston Hall Student Union. Students interested in joining RISE as a student counselor can reach out to Rachel or any RISE counselor.