Unprecedented times call for new and creative ways of handling problems, said Arianna Camel, director of Millersville University’s (MU) Center for Health Education and Promotion.
For Camel, that means always being prepared for a guest in an open zoom call and having her phone on in case someone needs assistance.
The ‘Ville’s Peer Educator Program is a multi-program, multi-tiered effort to provide students with knowledge and skills so that they can effectively identify and initiate personal behavior change as well as positively impact and influence the campus community to decrease high risk behaviors. The program includes discussion and internal programs on alcohol, drugs, mental health, sexual responsibility, healthy relationships and more.
The shutdown of Millersville’s campus due to the COVID-19 outbreak has made facilitating these programs challenging. Since the start of the academic year, peer educators have had just under 3,000 recorded student interactions with facilitated programming, outreaches, events and tabling, Camel said. She has supervised 28 peer educators and oversees two graduate assistants and one social work intern.
“There’s some difficulty now where students aren’t getting that peer-to-peer interaction,” Camel said. “Students can’t come in and have a conversation with domestic violence services and other programs like that. I think it has forced us to utilize things we needed to improve on.”
Camel has updated the program’s website and YouTube pages, created a TikTok account and has a zoom conference call open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day for campus community members to join if they need assistance.
Camel is accustomed to working with at-risk students of all different backgrounds. For example, she has been in constant contact with a student at risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19. Camel has checked in with the student and helped coordinate emergency planning if needed.
Some students may find social isolation difficult because it lacks structure. Others need advocates to help deal with past trauma. The Peer Educator Program is there to lead that discussion or facilitate help.
“We’re just continuing to seek out what the needs are,” Camel said. “Our office is working for the health and well-being of our students.”
Students who would like information from the Center for Health Education and Promotion should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (717) 871-4141. The organization can also be found on Twitter at @educatepeers and Instagram at @Peerseducate.