PA Students Turn Leadership into Outreach

In November 2020, Shenandoah University PA Student Society (SUPASS), led by PA student Gabriella Maye, hosted a virtual leadership training event for PA, occupational therapy, and pharmacy students across Shenandoah’s two campus; but that was just the beginning.

Considering the impact of COVID-19 combined with academic stress, the event encouraged students to focus on mental health and provided leadership tools for students to carry into their future careers as health care providers.

Post-event, 80% of participants stated they were committed to “paying it forward” by leading future outreach events to expand the training’s impact and to address mental health needs for students and the greater community.

Isabel Contreras, Class of 2022 SUPASS Vice President, stepped up to the challenge by educating fellow students, colleagues, and the community about sexual assault and sexual violence in April 2021, which coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Partnering with Fear 2 Freedom (F2F), a nonprofit dedicated to providing education and service-oriented programs to end sexual assault, Isabel organized an Hour 2 Empower for the Shenandoah PA students and faculty.  She collaborated with fellow PA Student Zoyah Butt, the Class of 2022 Student Diversity Representative, to bring the event to both Shenandoah campuses.

More than 50 students and faculty attend the Hour 2 Empower, which included a one-hour educational seminar and a COVID-19 adapted service project.  The educational session was tailored to PA students as future health care providers and focused on trauma-informed support and compassionate responses to trauma.

The service project involved making 100 care kits for sexual assault survivors, which included clothing, toiletries, handwritten letters, resource cards, and a stuffed bear for child and adult sexual assault survivors.  After the session, the kits went to local hospitals and women’s shelters.

Isabel explained the significance of the kit’s stuffed bear: “The bear is a significant component of the survivor’s healing; survivors are encouraged to write a letter to their future self and place it inside the heart of the bear.  When survivors feel they are ready, they can take out the note to themselves and place it in hot water where it dissolves.  This is a significantly symbolic moment for survivors during their healing and recovery.”

This project was supported by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE Grant.

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