Korri Wojack – Staff Writer
This October, as featured on the classic “Once Upon a Potty” posters put up by the PAs in bathrooms all around campus, the GustieWELL Office is focusing on physical and emotional wellness and engagement. “Walktober” is a set of events sponsored by the PAs that give students the opportunity to partake in walks around campus while engaging in mentally stimulating and fun activities.
The Peer Assistants (PAs) are an integral part of the GustieWELL Office whose mission is to “infuse wellness education into the everyday lifestyles of our students through co-curricular experiences and engagement,” Peer Assistant advisor Laura Herbst-Johnson said. The PAs support those efforts by creating tailored programs and workshops, transforming community norms, hosting large-scale wellness events, and assisting students in accessing resources. They mainly focus on topics such as: stress management & resilience, chemical health, mental health, nutrition and fitness, and healthy relationships. The mission statement on their homepage explains,
“The GustieWELL Office strives to infuse wellness into the everyday lifestyles of our students, through the promotion of personal responsibility, positive social norms, and campus engagement.”
The Peer Assistants (PAs) are a selected group of elite student leaders who are dedicated to promoting a culture of well-being by providing quality wellness education and resources that support and enhance the lifestyles of our students. The PAs support these efforts by equipping students with health-related knowledge by providing educational programs and workshops, awareness campaigns, social activities, and assisting students in accessing resources.
“Walktober was created to draw attention to the positive impact a brief walk and fresh air can have on one’s mood and mental health,” Herbst-Johnson said.
“The month of October can start to feel overwhelming for our students as it gets closer to midterms, and the chaos of life sets in.” Anxiety and stress are the top two reported blocks that impede academic achievement among college students.
While studies show physical activity can help to alleviate those symptoms (along with improving memory, sleep, and mood), it’s often the first thing students drop from their busy schedules. It is difficult to value a break, or a quick walk in some fresh fall air, while assignments and day to day responsibilities are piling up. Because of this, the GustieWELL Office created Walktober in hopes of giving students a brief moment of relaxation and fresh air. Last hosted in 2019, among 100 students that participated, 97% reported improved moods after taking part in Walktober.
Walktober events are held every Thursday in October, and students can choose to participate anytime between 8:30am – 4pm. The extended times allow students with every type of schedule to take a quick break from their days and participate. Every Walktober event is self-led through a paper passport. Students simply check-in at the GustieWELL Office to get started and by participating in three or more events they can be entered to win prizes.
Each of the four Walktober events were created and scheduled intentionally, with purpose, along with the stops included on each route.
The first event is a Mental Health Resource Scavenger Hunt, which took place October 7th. The scavenger hunt clues were developed by the PAs based on common struggles students may experience throughout their time at college, and aim to help identify both the purpose and physical location of on-campus resources available to support students through those challenges. October 7th was also National Depression Screening Day, so students had, and will continue to have, an opportunity to check-in on their mental health through a clinical screening provided by Learn to Live.
Many students have been all around campus, but have never had the opportunity to sit back and take in the campus beauty around them. Most of us are always too focused on our next class, or rushing to work after a long day. The Poker Walk on October 14th is simply an opportunity for students to press pause and venture around campus with a friend in hopes of taking their minds off daily stressors while trying for a winning Poker hand.
The Walk & Talk on October 21st is meant to be thought-provoking and growth-producing, focusing on goals and personal achievements. “When we pause and intentionally think about habits we’d like to establish and goals we’d like to achieve, then share them with a friend, we verbally commit to making better decisions,” Herbst-Johnson said.
“When we pause and intentionally think about habits we’d like to establish and goals we’d like to achieve, then share them with a friend, we verbally commit to making better decisions.”
In reference to chocolate, “Eat. You’ll feel better,” were the famous words of Harry Potter’s Remus Lupin. For the last event on October 28, Halloween themed, as all things should be, students will trick-or-treat to the same mental health resources from the scavenger hunt so students become more familiar and comfortable with entering each office.
Besides Walktober, the GustieWELL Office also provides smaller scale, one-on-one programs that focus on supporting specific populations of Gusties. Thrive in Five is a resilience-building program, created specifically for first-year Gusties, to help them successfully navigate life as a college student. Project 21 is another program, created to help students transition into the legal drinking age in a memorable, harm-free manner.
If you would like more information about Walktober and PA programming in general, visit the GustieWELL office on the lower level of the campus center.