Last month Sharon Rose Powell, the founding president of Princeton Center for Leadership Training’s Peer Group Connection program, had a rather extraordinary day. She appeared on NBC’s Today Show and was interviewed by anchor Natalie Morales.

The Peer Group Connection program was founded to help incoming high school students adjust to their new environment. Senior peer leaders are trained through a course for credit to serve as team mentors to groups of freshmen. Peer leaders practice communication skills, develop a greater appreciation for individual differences, and learn problem-solving skills that they can apply to real life situations. Freshmen meet weekly in small groups with senior peer leadere throughout the year to examine peer pressure, relationships, academic concerns, and other common issues facing high school students. Princeton Center for Leadership Training also offers programs focused on teen sexual health, substance abuse prevention, pro-social behavior, character education, and parent-child communication, as well as customized training.

Accompanying her on the Today Show were were a handful of the over 500 peer leaders and alumni from 25 New Jersey high schools who had recently attended the PCLT Leadership for Life Summit to explore and share essential leadership skills needed for success after high school and in the 21st century workplace.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision 30 years ago, when I stared the peer leadership program at Princeton High School, that we would now have peer leadership programs in hundreds of school across 12 states and three countries,” says Powell, whose son, Robert, was a peer leader, Class of 1990, and is now a producer at the Today Show.

Princeton Center for Leadership Training was founded 20 years ago. Powell, who is retiring, will be honored at a gathering on Thursday, April 23, at Jasna Polana. At the event the new incoming president, Daniel Oscar, will be welcomed.

According to Patrice A. Theard, senior director of marketing at PCLT, the path to the Today Show started 18 years ago, when Powell and the PCLT’s Peer Group Connection program in Camden were featured on NBC Nightly News as part of Tom Brokaw’s “What Works” segment. When plans were being made for this year’s summit, Theard says PCLT sent a request to the Today Show, asking them for a profile piece as an update to Brokaw’s. The Today Show was very interested and it was determined that Robert Powell, (who had been in the discussions about this as part of the Today Show production team, shared with the Today team that Powell is his mother) would produce the segment.

Whitney Ross, a former Princeton Day School peer leader, Class of 1984 and current chair of PCLT’s board, says: “The Today Show coverage was wonderful national exposure for us. Through public and private educational partnerships, PCLT’s goal isto have our program reach every school in the country and every community in the nation.”

As a result of the Today Show coverage, calls have been coming from all over the country to inquire about the peer leadership program and how to start the program in their communities. The Today Show segment can be viewed online at www.princetonleadership.org.

— Jamie Saxon

20th Anniversary Reception, Princeton Center for Leadership Training, Jasna Polana, Province Line Road, Princeton. Thursday, April 23, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Gathering to celebrate 20 years of service as a nonprofit; welcome Daniel Oscar, the new president; mark Sharon Rose Powell’s retirement as founding president; and honor Circle of Giving recipients. Business attire. Hors d’oeuvres and cash bar. Register. 609-252-9300 or www.princetonleadership.org.

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