By Steve Vivona
It is critically important for educators and parents to stress
the dangers of drugs and alcohol to young people but often the
message carries more weight when delivered from one of their own.
For the last three years St. John’s student volunteers have served
as Peer Educators through the Department of Student Life’s
Wellness, Alcohol and Other Drug Education Office, helping their
fellow students make healthy lifestyle choices and educating them
on a variety of wellness issues.
In November students Bernadette Chan, Beatriz Carrasquillo,
Tarashon Broomes and Lavaughn Brathwaite of the Peer Educators
Program were selected to give presentations on wellness issues at
the National BACCHUS (Boosting Awareness, Communication and
Cooperation for the Health of University Students) Convention in
Chicago. “(The students) deserve all the credit,” said Deborah P.
Levi, Assistant Director of Wellness, Alcohol and Other Drug
Education, stressing that not only do the students help her in the
office but each must run three extracurricular activities a
semester as well as three “Don’t Cancel This Class” (DCTC)
DCTC allows Peer Educators to facilitate a class in the absence
of a professor under the supervision of Ms. Levi. Instead of
canceling the class the professor can contact the AOD Education
Program and request an administrative instructor and a trained Peer
Educator to give a discussion on topics ranging from alcohol use,
date rape, wellness issues, leadership development, etc.
The number of Peer Educator volunteers has increased from five
the first year to 18 and it is still growing, said Darren Morton,
Director of Student Development for the Department of Student Life.
Following an interview process accepted students attend an in-depth
10-hour, 10-week training session both on these important issues
and on how to present them to their fellow students.
“Because it is volunteer work we’re hoping for (students) with a
lot of heart,” Ms. Levi stressed. “I’m hoping to see them show a
personal interest,” she added, noting that her students come from
diverse backgrounds, such as Pharmacy, Education or Sociology. Some
may have had personal experience with one of the issues being dealt
with and want to share that.
Mr. Morton added, “You want students to have a commitment to the
topic as well as to the University to helping their fellow students
grow which would be the learning outcome of the entire department.
Because it takes so much time you want people who are going to be
role models to other students.”
Associate Director of Student Development Denise Hopkins
observed that with this program she sees “a sincere commitment” on
behalf of the University as well as a concern for student welfare
and development. “That (commitment) is reflected in the growth of
the Peer Educator program,” she added.
Mr. Morton said that his office relies greatly on the assistance of
these committed students, and his hope is that the training they
receive might inspire them to take it further in the professional
world. “For us to support them in what they do and challenge them
to grow is the nature of our profession.”