A team of specially trained students will create and lead programs related to health and wellness next year as part of a new Peer Health Educator program.
The initiative, run under the auspices of the Cox Health and Counseling Center, will employ student workers to provide outreach and education to other students in areas such as sexual health, alcohol and drugs, stress management, nutrition, physical activity and more, according to Holly Levin, interim director of wellness and associate director of health promotion.
“With oversight from professional staff, students will take the lead in creating, promoting and implementing programs," she said.
“With oversight from professional staff, they’ll create programs, they'll market them, they'll implement them and kind of be the ones leading that charge of the events that they create,” she said.
Peer education programs are considered to be a national best practice for their ability to reduce high-risk behaviors and positively impact the overall well-being of the student body. Levin, who previously led a similar program at Boise State University in Idaho, said evidence shows that students are more likely to engage with their peers than staff members or health officials.
“A lot of times we can underestimate the impact that students can have on each other,” she said. “We know that a peer-to-peer approach has shown success.”
At Kenyon, student workers will go through special training before the start of the academic year and be certified through the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Certified Peer Educator program.
They are expected to use their own experiences on campus to tailor programming to the sorts of social and academic pressures routinely encountered by students. Potential events could include late-night programs, partnering with Community Advisors to bring education to the residence halls, tabling in Peirce Hall, and even hosting a well-being retreat or bringing in speakers related to mental health.
Offerings could focus on finding a sense of belonging, recognizing signs of high stress, and developing mindfulness and coping skills. Students — who will act as liaisons to campus organizations — will help their fellow students connect with clinical services at Cox and develop resources to promote better balance in the six dimensions of wellness: emotional, physical, spiritual, social, intellectual and environmental.
“They will be valued members of the college community and looked to as student leaders,” Levin said. “I'm excited to get this rolling.”
All student participants will be paid to work about 10 hours per week. Applications are expected to be available at some point in February for the program, which will be funded by a nearly $70,000 grant over two years from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas said the College is grateful to Levin for bringing the Peer Health Educators concept to life and for partnering with students in health promotion efforts.
“The way the Peer Educators will be an authentic part of the Office of Health Promotion is another avenue to assist students in their decision-making over their four years on campus, and I cannot wait to see all they will achieve this fall,” he said.