Healthy Eagles help students live a healthy and balanced life

March 13, 2014

Healthy Eagles are students serving as peer educators, helping their fellow students learn how to have a healthy lifestyle.  Two of the first things that suffer when students are stressed or over-committed are their sleep and nutrition.  Healthy Eagles (HEs) work to provide students with information and tips to navigate college and have "A Life in Balance, " Oxford’s curricular theme.

Amanda Yu, Center for Healthful Living director, oversees the program, which is now in its third year.  Yu created and implemented the program while in her former role of health educator in student health services.  "The reason I wanted to start a peer education program at Oxford was because I saw how important student buy-in was when talking about health issues. If a student comes to a session and learns that others may be going through the same difficulties, that creates a connection that is stronger than if I were to stand in a room and address students as a staff member," remarks Yu.

Participants are chosen each spring in a competitive selection process, which includes an application and interview with staff and current HEs.  The selection process for 2014-2015 HEs is underway; the new cohort will be named shortly, and the group will have a retreat the last week of March.  They will hit the ground running in the fall, looking for opportunities to partner with departments and student groups on campus.

This year, HEs hosted a cooking competition similar to the popular television show "Iron Chef," in which teams of students cooked using "secret ingredients."  Students competed good-naturedly to win the cooking challenge while learning about healthy eating habits on a college campus and being creative while cooking.

Weekly meetings allow Healthy Eagles to review recent presentations given and discuss upcoming events and potential collaborations with departments and student groups.  The group decides on their areas of focus on at the beginning of the semester and then creates programs based on these topics as opportunities arise throughout the semester.  Healthy Eagles partner with Oxford’s Office of Residential Education Services and its resident advisors (RAs) to provide evening programming in the residence halls.  For example, one of the Healthy Eagles, who is also an RA, recently hosted an alcohol-awareness program in her residence hall.

Events organized by the HEs reflect their personal interests. "I guess I am especially passionate about healthy eating, especially because what you put in your body can very drastically affect how you feel and how you perform both in school and in sports.  After a couple of weeks of well-portioned and healthy eating, people have told me that they have more energy, it is easier for them to concentrate, they are in a better mood overall, and that it even helps with the symptoms of depression," says Julie Xu, a sophomore Healthy Eagle from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Healthy Eagles are the only student group that can host Play Oxford seminars.  They prepare and give a 45-minute to one-hour seminar, and students enrolled in Play Oxford can attend to learn skills to improve their wellness, explains Yu.  Recent Play Oxford topics include stress management, relaxation, college nutrition, heart health awareness, and sleep.  Yu also plans to collaborate on programs with Daniel Parson, organic farmer/educator, as the Oxford organic farm gets off the ground in the next few months. 

--Ansley Holder