The UVI Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS Prevention Program hosted its second induction ceremony on Jan. 31. University Student Peer Educators (SPE), certified through the Bacchus Network, were recognized for their contributions toward creating HIV/AIDS and substance abuse awareness during the ceremony. The Bacchus Network, a nonprofit international association of college and university peer education programs, promotes peer to peer strategies as effective tools in health and safety education. Sen. Tregenza Roach, keynote speaker, UVI President David Hall, Dr. Doris Battiste and Dr. Gloria Callwood, recognized 22 students for their dedication and commitment to the prevention program during a ceremony held in the Administration and Conference Center on the St. Thomas Campus.
“This is a very important program to us because it is training students to be able to save lives,” said Dr. Hall to the inductees during the ceremony. “The focus here is on student peer educators, those that reach out to individuals who are your age, who are at your own stage in life,” he said. “They are more likely to listen to you, and you bring even greater credibility.”
“The idea of leadership is an important one because you might think of this role as educating persons about substance abuse or HIV/AIDS, but you’re actually helping to transform a community,” said Sen. Roach. “I commend you for taking on that role.”
He urged the Student Peer Educators to keep talking. “You have no idea of the type of impact you will have on one single person, who will have an impact on some other person or persons,” said Roach. “The work that you do is so important.”
Project Director Dr. Doris Battiste provided an overview of the project and thanked the SPEs for their efforts in helping to reduce drug use and prevent the transmission of HIV on campus, and for their work in promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors. She said that “through SPEs direct and indirect service the project recruits many other UVI students who are inspired to become peer educators.”
“These students are the backbone of the program. They are the faces of prevention on campus and in our community,” said Alyssa Ryan, the projects coordinator for the UVI Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS Prevention Program. The students that were recognized consist of male and female college students of varying majors, classifications, ages and ethnicities from both campuses.
Student peer educators increase awareness of the issues surrounding substance abuse and HIV/AIDS and help in changing unhealthy lifestyle behaviors on both of the University’s campuses and in the community. In order to increase awareness, they spread prevention message to their peers at freshman development seminars, in classes, as well as in residence halls, and around campus. Moreover, student peer educators also conduct research, and participate in outreach activities on and off campus.
To become a student peer educator, students complete several hours of training in alcohol, drugs and HIV/AIDS. Moreover, they are trained to become a certified peer educator, which concentrates on the skills needed by all peer educators. Students must also have a 2.5 grade point average, be in good academic standing, and cannot be on social or disciplinary probation.