In the early days of the CSW, there were two staff health educators to provide health education programming and services for the entire student population. That’s 2 people... in charge of providing for nearly 30,000 students. That’s scary math!
Back then, the thought of a peer health education team was merely a dream. It was like a mirage off in the distance—something we could see, but we knew it wasn’t yet real. We dreamed of it not only because we were spread too thin, but we knew it worked. We knew we could give students the opportunity to become leaders and to deepen their learning experience through educating others.
By 2018, we finally had our first-ever Director (the one and only Brittany Badger Gleed), and we were given the permission to dream big, aim high, and create something new. We spent most of that summer planning to deliver this “dream baby” into the real world. By January 2019, we were welcoming our first-ever peer health educator cohort.
The pilot program was small, but fierce. The 6 original students convened and brainstormed: Why does this work matter? What do we value? What can our peers expect from us? They came out of their week-long training as the ACES, a name that embodied their values and what they believed their peers deserved: advocacy, community, education, and support. Fast forward to 2021, and we are on the cusp of welcoming our fourth cohort into the ACES program! Feeling interested and want to learn more?
Within the ACES program, students have the opportunity to specialize in one of four different areas:
- Harm Reduction: The harm reduction team leads workshops on lower-risk alcohol and other drug use, coordinates campus-wide events promoting harm reduction strategies related to alcohol and other drug use, and provides outreach.
- Sexual Wellness: The sexual wellness team leads workshops on sexual health and healthy relationships, provides outreach, and serves as peer counselors at mobile STI screening clinics.
- Violence Prevention: The violence prevention team leads workshops on violence prevention and challenging rape culture, supports campaigns for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and provides outreach.
- Mental Wellness: The mental wellness team leads workshops on stress care and other mental wellness topics, coordinates campus-wide awareness events to de-stigmatize seeking mental health support, and provides outreach.
Across all four topic areas, ACES build skills and knowledge to facilitate educational workshops, engage with the campus community, create social media content, write wellness-related articles, consult on programming, and more. As ACES, students serve as campus leaders and role models who use their unique voices to build a community that supports everyone’s wellness journey.
We’ve watched this program grow from 6 to 12 to 18 students, and we are excited to expand the cohort to 20 students come fall. Won’t you join us?
Begin your application today! The deadline to apply is March 21.
Written by Lindsay Wetzel Polin, Health Educator + Jenna Templeton, Assistant Director of Health Education
Lindsay Wetzel Polin is one of CSW's Health Educators.
Jenna Templeton is CSW's Assistant Director of Health Education.