Time management and procrastination. Test anxiety and study skills. Communication skills. These are three of the many topics that are presented in the “Friends Helping Friends” workshops, a program presented by the Peer Educators.
The Peer Educators program began 14 years ago at the Counseling Center and the “Friends Helping Friends” workshops were started two years later. Students who participate in the Peer Educators program are trained in more sensitive topics, which have evolved over the years depending on the needs of the student population.
“The counseling center has a lot of history supporting and understanding students,” said Dr. Jeanne Manese, director of the Counseling Center. “The ‘Friends Helping Friends’ workshops is students helping students. A natural resource for students is other students. Students become aware of more resources and how to connect with resources in a more comfortable space.”
The Peer Educators present and develop the various workshops with the assistance of a Peer Coordinator, a student who has served as a Peer Educator in the past. In these workshops, the Peer Educators aim to provide a safe and open space where students can feel free to open up and share their own personal stories.
The workshops present information on a particular topic, like depression or living situations, and include activities that help deepen the understanding. The workshops are only presented during spring quarter.
The “Friends Helping Friends” workshops have gained momentum since the beginning of spring quarter.
This past Tuesday, the Peer Educators conducted a grief workshop that approximately 70 people attended, a significant increase compared to workshops presented earlier in the quarter. The Peer Educators and workshop participants discussed how different groups approach grief. During the grief workshop, the Peer Educators led a fishbowl activity, where students wrote down answers and these answers were redistributed anonymously. A student mentioned feeling alone after the death of a grandparent and, by random chance, this sense of loss resonated with other students as well.“It was a truly powerful workshop we had, where people truly opened up and shared their stories about grief. We do as much as we can to talk about it but people’s own experiences are what really drive the workshops,” said Alex Uzdavines, a peer coordinator and 2010 alumnus. “These workshops help people see that they’re not alone, that their part of a group of peers. We hope to help the grieving process in specific instances without trampling on cultural beliefs.”
For the Peer Educators themselves, the “Friends Helping Friends” workshops have been quite an experience. Hanna Schultheis-Gerry, a peer educator and a third-year drama major, applied to become a Peer Educator following a difficult experience her freshman year. Having felt found success in her own situation after working with the Counseling Center, Schultheis-Gerry wanted to give back to the campus community as a Peer Educator.
“These issues are not always talked about, it’s okay to open up. We want to provide people with the tools,” Schultheis-Gerry said. “With Peer Educators, I’ve taken initiative, learned when to step up and sometimes it’s kind of scary and challenging but I’ve seen how capable I am and it’s helped me a gain a lot more confidence.”
The two last “Friends Helping Friends” workshops will be on Tuesday, May 24 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, May 25 at 7 p.m. Both workshops will be presented in Moss Cove A in the Student Center. Tuesday’s workshop will focus on “Assertiveness Training” and Wednesday’s workshop will cover “Life Transitions.” Students who have attended at least five of the “Friends Helping Friends” workshops can receive a certificate of completion and all the workshops are open to the student community.