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Students participate in Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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  • 2017-11-02
  • Anna Loria

Students and Staff Are “Making Health Contagious”

Programs within the Hazen Center for Integrated Care implemented by students and staff are changing conversations about health on campus.

From stress management to anxiety, from mental health awareness to drug prevention, from relationship violence to stalking, SUNY Brockport has the programs and people needed to address any student health issue — all through the Hazen Center for Integrated Care.

Hazen, which houses the Counseling Center, Student Health Center, and Prevention and Outreach Services, not only helps students cope with health concerns; it functions as a multi-layered health information resource and the hub of two unique peer education programs.

A team of eight student employees at the College called student health advocates work to develop and facilitate campus-wide health programming that addresses topics such as bystander intervention, mental health, alcohol and other drug prevention, sleep and stress management, physical activity, nutrition, and other topics that fall within Prevention and Outreach Services.

The student health advocates aren’t the only student group contributing to the area’s mission of “making health contagious.” Eight select respect peer educators are specially trained to build a campus culture of respect by performing prevention and education work that addresses sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking. The group works out of the Center for Select Respect, which also encompasses the Center for Women and Gender.

“The two peer education programs are part of a really unique model,” said Sara Gleisle, assistant director of Prevention and Outreach Services. “The students are invested and passionate about making the community safer, making students more informed, and helping their peers make better and healthier decisions.”

When senior health science major Gabrielle Alfieri heard of the select respect peer educator program, she knew she wanted to be part of the “contagious health” process.

“I have such a passion for this work, and I love that I get to educate my peers about health topics that are important to me,” said Alfieri. “My favorite part is watching the light bulb go off in their head when they understand these topics.”

One health concept Alfieri helps communicate to her peers is EagleCHECK, a bystander intervention program that teaches and empowers students to intervene in situations that have the potential to be harmful. While first-year students receive the most exposure to EagleCHECK, Prevention and Outreach Services has begun implementing programs that help reinforce to upperclassmen the health topics and skills they learn early in their college years.

The peer educators serve as relatable resources to fellow students through frequent tabling events across campus and larger-scale initiatives. Their support can be requested by specific areas of the College, and their work often aligns with the College’s involvement in national awareness and prevention initiatives.

One such initiative is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in which Prevention and Outreach Services participated throughout October. Students, faculty, and staff served as advocates in nine interactive events meant to spread the message of awareness and empower victims and survivors.

The month kicked off with the annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event, during which students were challenged to strut around campus wearing red high heels to demonstrate support for victims of sexual assault.

“One in four women experience sexual assault during their lifetime, and the average age of victims is 18-24,” said Colleen Holcomb, coordinator for the Center for Select Respect. “The purpose of this event is to raise awareness and start conversations about the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.”

Other highlights from the month included a National Coming Out Celebration, a conversation session with Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester, and a presentation by domestic violence survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner.

When it comes to providing confidential support for instances of sexual assault, that’s where RESTORE College Advocate Nicole Posluszny ’16 comes in.

Posluszny works for RESTORE Sexual Assault Services and holds office hours* at the College to provide sexual violence resources to students.

“We can create a culture of openness to talking about sexual violence so people know how they can help someone who may have experienced it,” said Posluszny. “Students knowing about the resources they have available to them, both on and off campus, creates a space of support for survivors.”

Gleisle knows Prevention and Outreach Services is impacting students, because she hears it from them every day: “When students tell us, ‘I was able to leave an unhealthy relationship because of a presentation your group did,’ or ‘I was able to find more confidence because of your office,’ that shows me we’re doing good work on campus.”

*Posluszny holds office hours in the Center for Select Respect Monday and Friday from 8 am to 4:30 pm and Thursdays from noon to 4:30 pm. RESTORE Sexual Assault Services may be contacted through a 24-hour, confidential hotline at (585) 546-2777.

Last Updated 7/29/21

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