Peer educators work to ensure student health
November 07, 2011
Sometimes students will listen more closely to their peers than to anyone else. That is part of the premise behind a new program at Oxford College that is designed to help students manage their health and wellness and maximize their college experience. The Healthy Eagles is a group of six students whose goals are to inform their fellow Oxford students about health services and other offerings on campus and provide support for and education about making good decisions for overall wellbeing.
Healthy Eagles was created by Amanda Yu, Oxford health educator. Yu received her undergraduate degree in brain, behavior and cognitive science from the University of Michigan, where she also earned a master's degree in public health. She joined the Oxford staff in 2010. "I had seen similar programs work at Michigan," she says. "Oxford seemed to have the right atmosphere for peer education, and I wanted to provide it as a tool for helping students maintain the difficult balance of work, study, and personal time."
Yu made a call for students who were not only interested but passionate about health and wellness, and the result was the six members of the Healthy Eagles. After a series of training sessions, the Healthy Eagles were ready to take health education into their residence halls, classes and other venues of Oxford life. With Yu's direction, they meet regularly to stay current on events offered by Student Health Services and Career and Counseling Services. They make themselves available to Oxford's resident assistants (RA's) as additional resources for RA programming and counseling. Future plans include collaborating with established student organizations and distributing health and wellness information through social media and other avenues. In the near term the Health Eagles will also sponsor campus programming on health issues. One such event already on the calendar is Love Your Body Week in March, which will be presented in collaboration with Career and Counseling Services.
The founding members of the Healthy Eagels are Helen Akeri, Nashville, Tenn.; Shehzeen Jessani, Decatur, Ga.; Sarah Ku, Fullterton, Calif.; Madelaine Lowery, Atlanta, Ga.; Chelsea McCune, Lawrenceville, Ga.; and Olha Seredyuk, Lilburn, Ga.
Helen Akeri says about the experience, "For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in the fields of medicine and health. So when I discovered the chance to become an Healthy Eagle peer educator, I could not pass up this great opportunity. I chose to become a Healthy Eagle peer educator because it allows me to learn more about important health topics, improve my public speaking skills, gain better leadership skills, and most importantly help my fellow classmates gain a better understanding of health and wellness topics. I enjoy being a peer educator because it allows me to make a positive impact in the Oxford Community and it allows me to work with a wonderful group of people."
Yu adds, "Studies show that peer education can help improve overall health on the campuses where it is employed, but one of its greatest impacts is on the lives of the peer educators themselves."
Read here about other peer education efforts on Emory's Atlanta campus.