SHAPE(ing) Up for a Healthy Semester: A Conversation with an HC SHAPE Co-Chair

Nicole Letendre ’23

Features Editor

Picture courtesy of Allison McGrath ’22. Graphic design by Olivia Lynch ’24.

Holy Cross’s own Student Health Awareness Peer Educators (SHAPE) have been working diligently to connect the community through health and wellness initiatives. With a strong social media presence this semester, SHAPE members work to bring students accurate information about all things healthy living, such as nutrition, fitness, flu shots, and many other engaging topics. This week, I had the opportunity to interview SHAPE Co-Chair Allison McGrath, a junior Biology Major and Russian Minor, on the Pre-Dental Track. In addition to Co-Chairing SHAPE, Allison is also a research assistant in Professor Justin McAlister’s Marine Organismal Biology Lab, the Music Director of the Delilah’s A Capella Group, a BioBuddy tutor, and a Holy Cross Tour Guide! She hopes to become involved in Marine Biology research, as well as attend Dental School. Allison spent time answering key questions about HC SHAPE’s involvement in the HC community, as well as her own interests in health and wellness!

What would you say are the main goals and mission of HC SHAPE?

The Student Health Awareness Peer Educators (SHAPE) is a peer education group whose mission is to promote responsible decisions regarding personal and community health. Students in SHAPE are dedicated to educating the student body about a variety of health issues. SHAPE’s goals are to follow the Jesuit value of cura personalis: personal care and respect for the individual, as well as promote homines pro aliis: being “people for others.”

Members of SHAPE are available to students as a resource of information regarding a variety of health concerns. 

How have you adapted to these disconnected times, and maintained your commitment to spreading health and wellness awareness to the Holy Cross community?

SHAPE has definitely transformed through this semester, taking on a more virtual approach than in years prior. Normally, SHAPE hosts lobby tables in Hogan that highlight our health and wellness focuses through the year in conjunction with our social media outreach. What we’ve tried to do this semester is transition our physical presence to a virtual one: by bringing the lobby tables to you! Our Instagram page @holycrossshape has been our major platform for spreading awareness. SHAPE chooses one topic per month that is led by the students of the group that are most passionate about the subject. The leading students find infographics from credible sources online to share on our page, as well as other forms of research on the subject. We also submit articles to The Spire that highlight hot-topics in health and wellness!

How and why did you get involved in HC SHAPE, and what has been your favorite experience thus far?

I became involved in HC SHAPE after seeing their lobby tables in Hogan and reading their articles in The Spire. I really loved their initiatives of bringing awareness to student health, especially around more stressful times of the semester (finals, midterms, etc.) when they have giveaways such as sleep masks, blankets, and informative hand-outs about stress. My favorite experience thus far is our summer training hosted by Holy Cross personnel on important subjects like nutrition, fitness and AHA certified CPR Training!

What are a few health tips you would like to communicate to Holy Cross students as we approach the winter season, and soon the spring semester?

As we approach the winter season, it’s important to prioritize self-care by sleeping enough, engaging in stress relief activities, and staying hydrated. As we approach finals season, it’s easy to replace proper sleep with studying, but remember that sleep helps retain memory and improve cognition! I would encourage students to check out our Instagram page @holycrossshape for more information on student health and wellness!

How has HC SHAPE played a role in, or facilitated your own interest in health and wellness?

HC SHAPE has introduced me to the incredibly broad scope of health and wellness. There are so many important projects SHAPE has been a part of ranging from topics in Public Health, such as our Spire article on Eastern Equine Encephalitis, to our Paws for Comfort event that highlights the importance of comfort dogs for stress relief and overall emotional wellness. These health topics are seemingly unrelated, but they are all incredibly important and contribute to the overarching idea of bettering ourselves and others. I’m happy to be a part of SHAPE because I have realized the many important sectors of student health and have found my passions within this. SHAPE members work together to find the topics that most interest us, and find a creative way to communicate this to the Holy Cross community.

What is one health topic of particular interest to you, and how is HC SHAPE working to raise awareness about that topic?

Nutrition is always something that has interested me. HC SHAPE has helped raise awareness on this topic by first educating ourselves and researching the topic. Lectures hosted by Kimball’s resident Nutritionist/Registered Dietician, Alyssa Pittman, has busted many myths about nutrition in college. These tips as well as other forms of research have educated the group on how to navigate a healthy diet in college. This semester, we dedicated the month of October on our Instagram page to busting myths about nutrition and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Last year, we helped out with an awesome initiative to host a Farmer’s Market in lower Kimball.

Thank you, Allison, for giving us the inside scoop on HC SHAPE, and the exceptional work you do to spread health awareness. For any students interested in SHAPE content, visit their Instagram page (@holycrossshape), where they provide key information and helpful tips about all things health and wellness! 

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