Peyton Barsel, 17, of Las Vegas, Nevada, a junior at The Meadows School, helps children who have been traumatized by the death of a parent or sibling to express their feelings and learn coping skills, through her work at a grief counseling center in Las Vegas. Sadly, Peyton can relate to what these children are going through because she lost her own father to a heart attack when she was 9. “My mom knew that I needed more support than what I was receiving at school, so she enrolled me in a peer grief support group,” said Peyton. “That group changed my life.” For two years, Peyton and her brother participated in peer group counseling at Adam’s Place, “the one place where I felt safe,” she said. Five years ago, Peyton wanted to give back to the place that had helped her, so she approached the founder of the center to see if she could be a group facilitator.
After training, Peyton became the first teenage facilitator at Adam’s Place, meeting every other week with children 5-8 years old to do fun activities that helped them understand their loss, its impact on their families, and ways they can begin to put their lives back together. The work is hard, she said, and often makes her relive the pain of her father’s death, but it is “incredibly rewarding.” When a lack of funds threatened to close the center, Peyton testified at the state capital in support of a bill that now provides additional annual funding to keep Adam’s Place open and allow it to serve more children and families. She has also raised more than $5,000 by persuading businesses to donate goods and services for an annual silent auction. Currently, Peyton is lead facilitator for a group of children ages 9-12. She is also working to pass a bill in Nevada that would require eight hours of trauma training every two years to help teachers support students in crisis.