Boomerang Program Will Provide Peer to Peer Support for Los Alamos Students

From left, Boomerang Project partners Jeremy Varela, United Way; Bernadette Lauritzen, LAMS/40 Developmental Assets; Kristy Ortega, United Way; Joanna Gilispie, LAPS Foundation; Ellen Ben-Naim, JJAB; Jonathan Lathrop, LAHS; Robyn Collum, LAHS; Carter Payne, LAHS and Sylvan Argo, YMCA Teen Center. Courtesy photo

LAPS News:

“Fun!” “Colorful!” “Interesting!” This is what Los Alamos High School students are saying about a new program premiering this upcoming school year.

The selecting of this program started its journey when United Way of Northern New Mexico’s Youth Team was interested in reinvesting the money they raised to help current and future students. Through numerous meetings and conversations with people in the community, United Way was directed to The Boomerang Project by Dr. Marvel Harrison. This led to the convening of organizations interested in providing peer to peer support services for students.

The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, LAPS Foundation, YMCA Teen Center, Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos Middle School and United Way of Northern New Mexico came together to begin implementation of Link Crews and WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) Crews in Los Alamos High School and Los Alamos Middle School.

At the high school level, this peer to peer mentorship program partners incoming freshmen with two upper classman to not only welcome them to the school, but to help them succeed through their tenure at LAHS. At the middle school, incoming seventh graders will be welcomed and mentored by eighth graders. 

“I’m incredibly excited for our incoming freshman,” said Carter Payne, assistant principal at Los Alamos High School. “I may be even more excited for the leadership experience the students are getting and their chance to leave a lasting culture at our school.”   

Last month, Robyn Collum (LAHS), Bernadette Lauritzen (LAMS) and Jonathan Lathrop (LAHS), attended a training to lay the foundation of the program in Los Alamos.  

“The best professional development training I’ve ever attended,” said Lathrop who has taught at LAHS for 17 years. “I am absolutely enthused and so confident that this will enhance the positive culture at LAHS.”

A variety of students were approached about being the initial Link Crews and WEB Crews leaders. Sixty students from the high school and 47 students from the middle school signed up within a couple of weeks of learning about the program. During their initial meetings the last week of school, the students were given a glimpse of what they will be a part of by participating in the program.  

“Before the meeting started, some students were quiet, stern and keeping to themselves,” Jeremy Varela of United Way said. “By the end of the meeting they were all smiling and giggling with the friends they just made.” In the fall, freshmen and seventh graders will be treated to an orientation unlike any ever seen in Los Alamos. “What better way to kick off a new school year than making new friends?” Varela said.

“The program aligns with the 40 Developmental Assets and that is one of the reasons it will be successful.” Bernadette Lauritzen, LAMS prevention specialist said. “Students helping students succeed has the ability to change the culture in schools.”

The YMCA Teen Center has offered the space, giving the program the ability to do activities and meetings year-round. 

“Over the past 11 years of teaching, this program was life changing.” Collum said, “I am thrilled to use the tools I learned, share the enthusiasm and energy this program has sparked in me. It is exciting to build on the positive momentum the high school is already on.” 

Visit for more information about the program. Contact United Way of Northern New Mexico with questions specific to the program in Los Alamos at 505.662.0800 or visit

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