The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Residential Commons peer health educators support students

By Christopher Serrano

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Peer health educators take “It’s On Us” pledges Nov. 16. (Courtesy of SMU)

Her phone rang in the middle of the night, and when she answered, a frantic student asked for help for a drunk and unconscious friend. Katie Thompson, the peer health educator for Armstrong Commons, quickly got out of bed to assist the student who lived across campus.

When she got there, Thompson checked the student’s vital signs and determined that he didn’t need to go to the hospital. Thompson stayed to monitor the student for the rest of the night.

On a different night, Thompson received a call at 3 a.m. from a drunk student who got lost walking back from Greenville. Thompson and the student had exchanged numbers earlier in the week. Thompson went to retrieve the student, who she found wandering in front of the Bush Library, and just like the first incident, she gave him an assessment and decided whether or not he needed further medical assistance.

“Although that’s not my responsibility to help him, I felt like he is one of my residents and I wouldn’t want something to happen to him,” Thompson said.

While this responsibility would normally fall to the Residential Assistant, who has the power to reprimand students in such cases, Thompson fulfills a new role as a student liaison between the health center and SMU residents, and her only concern is the student’s health.

The Peer Health Educator Program started this semester with one trained student living in each of the 11 Residential Commons and one in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house. The idea for the program came with the addition of the new Residential Commons modeled after Oxford’s Residential Commons. Lisa Joyner, peer health educator coordinator, explained that the purpose of the program is to educate residents about healthy lifestyles in college.

They have programs that are related to alcohol, drugs, sex, bystander intervention and stress,” Joyner said.

For example, Thompson gave her residents the opportunity to participate in an activity where they were required to complete simple tasks like driving a golf cart or riding a tricycle while wearing goggles that simulated intoxication.

“You get to experience why we say it’s unsafe, why you should have a designated driver and why you should call a cab if you’ve been drinking,” Thompson said.

Joyner explained that students feel more comfortable talking to the peer educators rather than a staff member or Residential Assistant. While peer educators are not bound by the contract of health care professionals, they do sign a confidentiality contract. This contract allows students to feel safe discussing sensitive topics, Joyner added.

Thompson explained that since the program just started, the peer educators don’t expect a lot of serious cases until rush week.

The peer educators are volunteers. Students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to any of the peer health educators; we’re here to help, Thompson said. Joyner said that she would love for students to talk to their peer educators more.

“They’re very knowledgeable in their area and that’s why they were picked,” Joyner said.

Background, GPA and major play a major role in the selection of a peer educator, Joyner explained. Thompson, for instance, has volunteered for the Ronald McDonald House, an organization designed to help children and families in need, and shadowed at local hospitals throughout high school. Joyner explained that peer educators are typically very engaged and have a “gun-ho attitude.”

“It’s a reward in itself just knowing that I was in this dorm for a purpose and that I was able to reach out to student and help them,” Thompson said.

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