Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassador Program connects with students virtually, plans for fall return

Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassadors pose for a photo while at a meeting in September of 2020.

Kenzie Johnston Reporter

The Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassador Program plans to make a return to the Kent State community this fall after a brief hiatus due to COVID-19.

“We really want to make sure all students on campus know about the tools and services offered to them,” said Melissa Celko, the Kent State of Wellness director. “We work directly with students to help them get the resources they need.” 

Created roughly four years ago, the program works to connect students with other people and programs to get help. This help can come in the form of mental health assistance, nutrition help or sexual health education.

Both undergraduate and graduate students take part in the ambassador program where they work to spread information about the programs and resources at Kent State. According to Celko, the program looks for a diverse group with unique voices to provide good insights and connections.

The ambassador program currently has six ambassadors returning in the virtual environment who plan to help bring awareness to a variety of topics. These topics include the following: alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, nutrition, physical activity, safety, sexual health, smoking and tobacco use and preventative care. 

According to Celko, ambassadors’ tasks include volunteering at events, producing content, serving as representatives for the program and also working on committees for projects and events. 

“My favorite part about being an ambassador is getting to be involved while encouraging and advocating for overall health and wellness,” said Bethanie Mauerman, a student ambassador and Ph.D. student studying health education and promotion.

Mauerman’s main roles as an ambassador are assisting with the newsletter and representing Kent State of Wellness within other organizations she is involved with. She typically focuses on substance abuse and mental health but assists in other areas too.

“Creating a sense of community and bringing awareness to important topics in the college setting are things we really focus on,” Mauerman said.

With safety precautions still in place due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19, the program is one of the many on-campus organizations that have had to pull back on some operations over this past year, with most of its activities and tasks being done virtually.

Even with the new virtual format the program is working under, according to Celko participation has grown in some of their activities such as Meditation Across Campus and Flashes Rise Above.

Meditation Across Campus offers the Kent State community free, virtual, facilitated meditation sessions with weekly drop-in times available. Meditation sessions are available Monday through Friday for 30 minutes each day. Sessions are delivered via Zoom.  

Flashes Rise Above is a series of events hosted by campus community members to equip students with the knowledge and resources to handle life’s challenges. Currently this program is focusing on three major things: sleep, sex and money. Registration for the events can be done online and attendance is virtual.

Other than the Meditation Across Campus and Flashes Rise Above activities, students can participate in a variety of events which are currently being held virtually. Two of those options include the Group X fitness classes, instructor-led group workout classes and Koru Mindfulness and Wellness Training, a four-week, 75-minute class on how to incorporate mindfulness skills and meditation into your life.

With the many changes the program has had to undergo in the past couple of months, some were worried that the connection between the students and the ambassadors might be lost; however, Celko feels the program moved into the virtual format very well.

“The transition to the virtual environment was pretty easy and smooth for our program,” Celko said. “Luckily a lot of the things we do such as meditation sessions and talking with students can all be done remotely. This has even allowed more students to join in because they don’t have to physically go somewhere to attend.” 

This summer the program plans to look for new ambassadors to add to their program, start planning events and connect with more students. The program is keeping plans tentative but has intentions to get things in place for the fall. 

For the upcoming fall semester, Celko said they are working to bring more meditation programs to campus, provide outdoor spaces on campus for student use and hope to host more events. With questions of what the fall semester may look like, Celko said most of the plans are tentative, but the program is focusing on connecting more ambassadors to students. 

Even with the uncertainties for next fall, the program is still progressing forward and looking for ways to help. Celko feels that even if resources and events are being delivered remotely they can still have a big impact on students. 

“Moving forward we are keeping our plans tentative but know that no matter what we can still help students get connected to the things they need to help them,” Celko said.

Kenzie Johnston covers health, recreation and fitness. Contact her at [email protected]