Alicia "Leash" Cannon, SAC Co-Director
March 16, 2018
A political science student walks into a POWER (Peers Offering Wellness Education and Resources) meeting, surrounded by nursing students spewing medical jargon and releasing stress from their hours upon hours of clinical rotations. The student sits with one engineer, one business student and two other liberal arts students. We are outnumbered ten to one. It is in this moment that I wonder: Why do we care about health? The other nursing students use this in their day to day learning. Why are we here? Why am I here?
My peer health journey started half as an excuse to get out of gym class and half as a fascination with sexual health. My senior year of high school, I was selected to join HiTOPS (Health Interested Teens Own Program on Sexuality). We performed programs on a range of topics, from homophobia reduction to STIs/Pregnancy Prevention. As I bonded with 17 other like-minded teenagers and saw the minds of my fellow high schoolers turn, I found a passion for health. Seeing that I went to Catholic school for 12 years prior to my transfer to public school, I did not receive much health education. As I was teaching my peers, I was learning a lot of information for the first time. While HiTOPS covers sexual health, it included a training and performance on dating violence and sexual assault. The training helped me identify the red flags in my own relationship at the time and gave me the tools to talk to a friend who, from my perspective, was going down the same path I previously was.
After transitioning to Villanova, I joined POWER because it seemed to be the closest fit. POWER covers a wider range of topics including nutrition and mental health. Through POWER, my original narrow view of health expanded to fit the needs of our community. In college, I noticed that the trainings I received were not necessarily for the consumption of a crowd gathered due to an eye-catching poster or witty social media post. At least for me, the trainings were most useful during one on one interactions or within intimate circles. I am the friend that people go to when Google either fails to answer their timid question all together or provides a scary answer. I am a resource that is less intimidating than the counseling center, the health center or even sometimes Google.
A key to being a resource is being approachable. For the first half of my POWER career, POWER was perceived as a health group against drinking when in reality, we promote safe drinking habits. Individuals, especially college students, do not want to be told that their actions are wrong in any way. We think we’re invincible. In order to properly promote safe life practices and actually be heard, we needed a new image. Once we overhauled our image, we had an increase in attendance at events. We became more personable instead of an overbearing entity constantly condemning the actions of our fellow peers (The introduction of some very trendy t-shirts made us fashionable and personable.)
So why do I care? I care because peer health education helped me better my own life. Peer health education allows me to be an easy resource. It gave me the courage to engage in hard but necessary conversations with my closest friends. The skills I learn every week are not solely for nursing majors. Yes, it looks good on a resume for them but life is not about having the longest CV. POWER trainings build a well-rounded health conscious individual. As for my friends, I can’t say why they go every week but I can say that I have seen them grow as a person and as an educator because of POWER and peer health.
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