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Peer Educator initiative re-instated

Steven Shrenkel

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Ashland University’s Peer Educator program has been re-instated as a part of Ashland’s strategic plan, Ashland Rising 2020.

The plan identifies five strategic imperatives for AU. One of these imperatives is titled, “A Healthy, Safe and Supportive Campus Environment.”

Deborah Sullivan, director of campus wellness, decided to re-implement the educator program after four years of AU not running the program.

“I decided it would be a good thing to bring back,” Sullivan said.

The Peer Educator’s mission is to educate Ashland University students in all aspects of wellness while also preparing them with the necessary tools to lead a healthy life-style.

Sullivan said the goal of this imperative is to provide programs that promote healthy behaviors for students, faculty and staff. It also encourages students to become leaders within the AU community as the program itself is student lead.

“The national initiative is designed for student to student interaction to encourage a healthy lifestyle,” Sullivan said. “I thought what better way to do that than to have it be student lead.”
Two of those student leaders in the community are Malorie Anile and Priya Battula. Anile is a dietetics major while Battula is a business major. They are the co-chairs of the peer educator program and are advocates for a healthy lifestyle.

“We’re serving as role models and educators for optimal well-being,” Anile said. “We’re trying to bring different initiatives that help bring awareness to our campus community.”

The program is mainly focused on the dimensions of wellness within a person.

“We are a group of people who are interested in working on wellness,” Battula said. “We focus on the seven kinds of dimensions on wellness.”

The seven different dimensions of wellness that the educators focus on include emotional, environmental, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual wellness.

It was these dimensions that brought the student lead group together at Ashland.

“All of the people in our group had an interest in one of the dimensions of wellness,” Battula said. “That’s how we came together to form the group.”

It is within these dimensions that a healthy lifestyle is encouraged. The dimensions focus on how you can lead a healthy life, and fitness and good nutrition are examples of physical wellness dimension.

As a college student, Anile knows all too well just how easy it is to forget about physical well-being.

“This program is to increase awareness for students in taking charge of their health,” Anile said. “I think we get busy with school and our social lives and we forget about our physical well-being. A lot of things get pushed to the side.”

Anile said she hopes that the peer educator program will help students to balance their lives in a way that sticks.

“It’s important for students to incorporate the dimensions of wellness amidst all the business,” Anile said. “It’s also important to find an easy way to do this that sticks around for the long run.”

Both Anile and Battula became educators after they had undergone a rigorous 12-hour training program in the summer organized by the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (NASPA).

After the training program, both students had to pass a national exam to become certified peer educators.

The NASPA training was what gave Anile many of the tools needed to become a peer educator, while also teaching life skills.

“We learned a lot about working together as a team” Anile said. “We also learned about knowing how to lead peers and have empathy while also discussing diversity.”

The main takeaway that Battula got from the training program was how to become a more effective listener.

“We improved our skills on how to listen more consciously,” Battula said. “Learning how to be a good listener is a very good thing I would say.”

The peer educator group currently has a diverse array of majors in it, not just physical exercise or dietetics. This is one of the reasons that Battula finds it so exciting to be a part of.

The group also has two international members, one being Battula. She originally found out about joining the group through Facebook.

“I found out about this group through a Facebook page and immediately took an interest. Battula said. “I was really looking forward to joining this group.”

As the director, Sullivan said she was overjoyed to have international students take part in the educator group, and she would like to see even more diversity.

“We’re just thrilled to have international students be a part of this,” Sullivan said. “It’s an awesome dimension to add to the group. It’s a nice mix but we only have one male. We would like to encourage is gender diversity too.”

The group meets bi-weekly and is always looking for new recruits, Sullivan said.

Updates, tips and pictures about wellness from the peer educator group can be found through the AU portal, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The group’s Facebook page is Ashland University Wellness. The Twitter handle is @AUcampuswell, and the Instagram account is aucampuswellness.

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