P.E.E.R.S. educators expand outreach program

P.E.E.R.S. educators expand outreach program

In recognition of last week’s National Alcohol Awareness Week, Wake Forest’s P.E.E.R.S. (Peers Educating, Engaging, Reaching & Supporting) group offered a host of activities, including a standard drink challenge, an alcohol Jeopardy game and a trivia night focusing on knowledge of Thrive-related concepts, amongst others.

The P.E.E.R.S. group is a student-led outreach organization which focuses on raising awareness on campus about critical aspects of mental and physical health. Last week’s events epitomize the inclusive, active role the P.E.E.R.S. group has come to play on campus as a supportive group devoted to encouraging the health, well-being and smart-decision making of students on campus, particularly in terms of alcohol and drug use. 

However, the P.E.E.R.S. group has expanded its focuses beyond the realm of alcohol and drug awareness over the past couple of years as the program has grown. The group now includes a Nutrition and Mindful Consumption branch, Student Education and Empowerment for Invisible Disabilities branch, Student Mental Health Ambassador branch and Alcohol and Other Drug Misuse Prevention branch, all of which are designed to provide help and support to students to ensure a healthy lifestyle and decision-making process for Wake Forest students.

Vonnie White, who has been involved in the Alcohol and other Drug Misuse Prevention branch since her sophomore year, has seen the development of the program and appreciates the student to student interaction which the program necessitates.

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“As college students, a lot of the time it feels like we’re being instructed by authority figures about what to do and what not to do. As P.E.E.R.S. we have more respect for one another because we are all college students going through the same thing and making similar choices, especially in terms of alcohol and drugs. We recognize that alcohol and drug use will persist in the college environment, so our role as P.E.E.R.S. is to advocate for our peers and make sure they are equipped to make decisions that are safe rather than punish or instruct them about what to do,” she said.

Sophomore Brandon Freeman and freshman Allyson Deak reiterated the intentions of the program and their own ambitions to help the program grow as they continue to be involved over the next several years. 

“I just got involved with P.E.E.R.S. and this is the second event I’ve done,” Freeman said. “ I enjoy it and think it’s important that people are aware and can, if they choose, drink alcohol in a safe and responsible way.” 

“I’m excited to help grow the program over the next few years, because it is still so new and there’s a lot of opportunity within the program to affect campus trends,” Deak said. 

In order to get involved in P.E.E.R.S., one must submit an application online, go through an interview, and finally get nationally certified as a Peer Educator. To retain membership, P.E.E.R.S. must participate in at least 25 hours of outreach or program activities per semester, including Peer group initiated programs as well as Office of Wellbeing programs.  Annual training and workshops also must be attended.  P.E.E.R.S. educators, through their commitment to continued training and passion for engaging with the student body, are gaining an increasing, beneficial influence on campus.

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