Peer advocates provide a relatively new resource for students on campus. The program came into existence last year, but this semester serves as the first official term the program has been implemented with all advocates available to help.
Students are able to connect with peer advocates through the “Support at Pacific” page online. There is a way to request an advocate, providing as much or as little information as the student wants, and arrange a meeting.
Here at Pacific, there are five peer advocates. Madeline Clark and Grace Peketz are lead peer advocates and co-presidents of the Campus Wellness Center. There are also three more wellness educators including Sam Anderson, Lydia Malcolm and Anika Morkowski.
The purpose of peer advocates is to promote the wellbeing of students and healthy relationships. They also handle risk reduction around drugs and alcohol and work heavily with sexual violence. The Campus Wellness Center implements workshops such as Let’s Talk About Sex and Pizza to educate students and better improve their knowledge of these situations on college campuses and how to deal with them.
“People can come to us to get resources or options, seek out more confidential resources or we can look into what restraining or protective orders are available on campus, whatever a student needs,” Clark said. “We essentially have a bunch of information about our campus and how our campus deals with sexual misconduct.”
All peer advocates must complete Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force District Attorney General Training before they are legally licensed in the state of Oregon. It is a 45 hour online training that informs wellness educators about the legal rights that come with being confidential as well as the reporting processes. In addition to this online course, advocates must also take a semester long course here on campus to prepare themselves for the roles they will be assuming.
Peketz and Clark were among the first group of wellness educators. They took the course as freshman, and realized how interested they were in the program and how vital it was to their everyday lives.
“I remember freshman year being so intense and realizing all of my friends were getting hurt by something like this and I can’t just not do anything,” Peketz said. “I slowly started picking up a little more and more and then before I realized it I was a peer advocate and co-president of Campus Wellness.”
Peer advocates are great resources for students, and they want to ensure students are aware of this.
“If anyone is feeling scared and wants to talk through an experience they or their friend had but they just don’t know who to go to, we are a stepping stone resource,” Malcolm said. “We can be there for them or we can direct them to other resources.”