Student ambassador program aims to spread COVID-19, health awareness
To complement Governors State University’s response to COVID-19, the university is working on a free educational awareness program to help students become advocates of their own health and allies in stopping the spread of the virus.
Through the Jaguar Health Ambassador Program led by the College of Health and Human Services, students will learn about important topics related to health and disease prevention. That includes information pertaining to COVID-19 mitigation and prevention of other health conditions like diabetes. Ambassadors will then share what they’ve learned in virtual orientations, at health awareness events and on social media.
Tamiki Harris, a senior Community Health major, volunteered to be an ambassador because she wanted to play a role in steering individuals toward needed resources. She also feels community members could learn from her daughter’s experience with diabetes, which taught Harris and her family the importance of exercise and lifestyle changes.
“I know diabetes is prevalent in the African American community and it didn’t become such a focus until it hit my home,” Harris said. “If you start exercising, you can help alleviate some of those symptoms, lower your A1C, your blood sugar levels.”
The student-led outreach effort Harris will be a part of aims to contribute “to a culture of holistic health, safety and prevention” among participants, their friends, family and peers, according to Director of Community Engagement, Program Development and Academic Support Dr. Tonya Roberson. Roberson, host of the Southland Health and Wellness Hour Podcast, thinks the effort will be an effective way to combat misinformation and medical mistrust on campus, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There's so many people that are so confused and they don’t know where to get the right information, so to have this disseminated at our university through students will be really helpful,” Roberson said, noting students will serve as credible messengers.
The program goes hand in hand with the SHIELD testing initiative on campus, Roberson said. The initiative expanded access to testing, which was originally offered a few hours each week. Demand for testing increased when Governor JB Pritzker issued an executive order mandating unvaccinated university employees and students be tested weekly. Now testing is available on campus Monday through Friday in a temporary trailer along University Parkway, as well as in the Hall of Honors. For more details on testing schedules and procedures, check out GSU’s COVID-19 page.
Since testing is accessible for everyone on campus, it’s important to turn toward education, to get more vaccines in arms, Roberson said.
“We have testing sites but there are a lot of people that are unsure or are still very hesitant about getting vaccinated,” she said. “While unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are getting tested weekly, we still want to give them information, so that maybe one day they may change their mind about the vaccines.”
So far five students, including Harris, have volunteered for the ambassador program, which is slated to begin in January and more are needed, Roberson said. Those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org