Nicole Letendre ’23
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has raised many public health concerns regarding COVID-safe practices, the Student Health Ambassadors (SHA) initiative was formed this spring semester, led by faculty and staff officers, Neil Lipsitz of the Psychology Department; Liz Drexler-Hines, Director of Student Wellness Education; and Darlene Menz, MS, NP-C, Health Services Nurse Practitioner and SHAPE Advisor; with several student leaders as well. The mission of the SHAs is to provide up-to-date information on COVID-wide and campus guidelines, be a source of knowledge for offering COVID-safe activities, and to keep students connected in a way that acknowledges both social interactions, and health and wellness, as priorities. Main areas of focus for SHAs include in marketing and media, research on up-to-date information, programming and community building, and an awareness of off-campus students’ and their living situations.
“Need a Mask? Ask!” is the slogan seen on SHA buttons, and the Student Health Ambassadors are always more than welcome to provide a fresh mask to those around campus. Beyond being prepared for mask needs, SHAs have begun doing fun Instagram initiatives, such as the one reminding students to stay safe during the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday. SHAs are resources to help everyone on campus stay healthy during this unpredictable time, and they want you to have the best, and safest, semester possible! Director of Student Wellness Education, Liz Drexler-Hines, detailed the mission of SHAs and their role on campus: “Student Health Ambassadors (SHA) at Holy Cross are volunteers who are instrumental in encouraging healthy behaviors regarding COVID and educating the campus community about the actions that will keep Holy Cross and our communities safe. SHAs promote healthy COVID behaviors, engage others to do the same, and educate our communities in a non-judgmental way.”
Their responsibilities are to: encourage behavior by being visible and positive role models; answer questions about public health guidelines and share resources when appropriate; offer masks and hand sanitizers to community members; notice needs and patterns on campus to better understand (and respond to) public health needs; maintain a consistent physical presence on campus and in the close student neighborhoods off campus; serve as a student think tank for COVID-relater prevention & education efforts, and create new public health campaign messages.
Something important to note is that SHAs are NOT the “COVID Police”!! The purpose of the SHAs is NOT a reporting system, it is a system of leading by example and inspiring healthy choices. Our hopes of creating this program is to use the power of peer to peer education as a positive reinforcement of COVID-safe behaviors. Similar programs have been in place on a number of other campuses throughout the country and are proving to be successful. Peers have much more influence over other peers when it comes to behaviors whether they are risky or positive. The SHAs are here to try and promote the positive in all of their efforts. We are hearing from a lot of students that it is a lot to take in all of the rules and regulations that are needed to be safe, and sometimes the tone can be taken as a negative one. The SHAs are trained to approach their work with understanding and empathy first, so their approach is non-judgmental while also making sure that other students are practicing safer behaviors. For example, if someone doesn’t have a mask on, a SHA is trained to approach the person with kindness and offer the person an extra one. They have also been trained in the campus guidelines and policies, so they are a great resource to ask if someone has a question. You can spot a SHA on campus by them either wearing a SHA mask, or wearing a bright green button. You can also see who the SHAs are by looking at their page on MyHC. SHAs are always equipped with extra masks, sanitizer, and other educational information.” If you or a friend is interested in joining as a SHA, you can contact Liz Drexler-Hines at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As an SHA myself, I want to wish you all the healthiest and most productive semester possible. Remember to mask up and follow guidelines, but know that there are still plenty of ways to socialize in-person in safe and substantial ways. If you haven’t yet, explore the Rec Loaning desk in the basement of Hogan, where you can borrow board games and recreational supplies for you and your friends! You could even have a COVID-safe game night with a few friends in Hogan basement, and put your trivia knowledge to the test, or challenge friends to a game of Uno. All in all, take advantage of both in-person and virtual events that various clubs are offering to keep students connected in meaningful ways. Oh, and be sure to say hello to the next Student Health Ambassador you see on campus!