Leading the Way to Wellness
From policy makers and changers to business movers and shakers, leadership takes many different forms. For one group of San Diego State University students, it’s all about making campus, and the world, a healthier place.
SDSU’s Peer Health Educators (PHE) program is comprised of undergraduate students — about 20 each semester — who are passionate about health education and outreach.
Participants learn about the health issues most relevant to their fellow students, including sexual health, nutrition and alcohol and drug use, and become skilled in the theory and techniques that can help create positive behavior change. The student leaders then raise awareness about health topics through formal presentations to student groups, workshops and semester-long, campus-wide projects.
Since the program’s inception in 1995, more than 700 undergraduate students have served as Peer Health Educators. In addition to implementing health promotion programs on campus, many of them, including Nicole Jackman, have gone on to pursue careers in health-related fields.
Jackman, who graduated from SDSU in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, provided information and peace of mind to fellow female students as a gynecology session leader during her time as a Peer Health Educator. From there, she became the Sexual Health Intern for SDSU’s Student Health Services department.
Now Jackman is a Peace Corps Volunteer at a youth center in the central region of Uganda, where she promotes HIV awareness and testing, among other sexual health initiatives, including family planning and myth busting.
“Since I was young, I can remember being interested in sexual health and empowering women about their own reproductive rights,” she said. “I just didn’t know this interest was labeled ‘sexual health’.”
“As I was questioning everything a junior questions when they change majors so late in the game, the then-PHE advisor, Angela Guzman Basham, walked into one of my classrooms and described the PHE program. I filled out my application that day and was ecstatic when I was accepted. I liked that I would be educating my peers about a topic that is a part of everyone’s lives. I felt that messages about safe sex are best served by people that the audience can relate to. I was excited to learn the ins and outs of the profession in a fun and judgment-free environment.”