Health Advocates for Wellness Knowledge and Skills, also known as HAWKS Peer Health Educators, are a group of students who work out of Miami University’s Office of Student Wellness. They provide educational resources and promote the health of their peers at Miami.
The HAWKS mission is to engage students and help them consider issues of health and wellness. This is done through programs on campus that range in topic from sex education to alcohol awareness.
The most popular program HAWKS offers is called Sex in the Basement. The aptly named program is held in the basements of dorms on campus and covers a broad spectrum of sexual health topics.
This semester HAWKS has focused on another program called Step Up. Step Up is geared toward bystander intervention and helps students understand how they can step up in order to prevent a potentially harmful situation.
Senior Taylor McInturf, Vice President of Hawks, said as an example, “If you are uptown and you see someone walking home alone or with someone they obviously don’t know it is your obligation to step in and say ‘Are you okay?’ or ‘Do you need a taxi?’ ”
Step Up allows Miami University students to be effective bystanders. This important message is one that could help a lot of people, especially freshman who are often making decisions for themselves for the first time. HAWKS is looking into the possibility of making Step Up a requirement for all freshmen within the next couple of years.
HAWKS programs, however, are not just for freshman. The bystander program is also popular with athletes, sororities, and fraternities.
In addition, HAWKS puts on events that are open to the entire campus. This semester they hosted mental health speaker Ross Szabo. Szabo spoke about the misconceptions of mental health issues, especially as they occur and are dealt with in college. Because mental illness usually has a stigma attached to it, HAWKS was excited to bring in someone who could talk about the issue in a more positive manner.
This is a concept HAWKS applies to all of their programs. They use the acronym FIRE as a guideline for educating students.
FIRE stands for the Freedom that each person has to make decisions for themselves, the guarantee that Information provided by HAWKS is factual and relevant, the ability of students to Reflect on their values and actions, and the process of Engaging students in their learning.
McInturf said, “We really try to engage students…we’re not here to lecture them we’re here to inform them.”
She also recognized the positive influence that being a HAWKS Peer Health Educator has had on her personally.
McInturf noted she has become more comfortable speaking to her peers about wellness issues and feels that the experience of making a change at Miami has been very rewarding.
If you are interested in hosting a HAWKS program or becoming a Peer Health Educator you can visit the HAWKS website here.