Mari Irvan is a fourth year senior at WSU completing a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in human development. She joined the peer health education program in the fall of 2018. Her peers in the program nominated her for the April Peer Health Educator of the Month award. This award is given to peer health educators in recognition of their hard work and dedication to the program. We sat down with Mari to hear more about her time in the program and why she thinks other students would benefit from joining.
How has being a peer health educator been meaningful to you?
MI: Going into the program, I was excited about the opportunity to make a difference on campus and be involved in a club that promotes various aspects of health. Being in the program has opened my eyes to different opportunities after graduation and my trajectory has definitely changed.
I’m going to be trained as a community coalition coordinator working for the state to prevent substance abuse at the community level. And I don’t think that would have happened without this spark of interest.
How do you think being a peer health educator has built career skills?
MI: Throughout school, you get opportunities to stand up in front of a classroom and do a presentation. But something I didn’t expect from [being a peer health educator] was being able to gain skills in how to present in a very engaging way.
You learn how to get the audience to want to participate and to feel the information personally relates to them, no matter who they are. I think this makes presenting a lot more effective and fun for everybody.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a peer health educator?
MI: One of the most impactful things I did as a peer health educator was go through Mental Health First Aid training. I liked how it teaches you how to respond to someone who is having a crisis. This isn’t something covered in a lot of my psychology classes and it can be really difficult to respond in these situations.
What do you do in the moment? Or what do you do if you see someone who you’re really concerned about? How do you be direct and ask them ‘hey, are you ok?’ I think this is easier said than done. [What we learned] was very applicable and is something everyone should know.
What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a peer health educator?
MI: [Being a peer health educator] is a great opportunity to be a leader and to be part of something that is making a positive impact. You will be surprised at how much you learn as an individual about different aspects of health and safety. What I learned was super applicable for when I was starting to look for internships to complete my human development degree and for what I would do after graduation.
I don’t regret joining at all. It has been one of my favorite things I’ve done at WSU. I’m glad I was able to snag the opportunity before I graduated, and I would definitely recommend it.