CREWS peer educators inform, interact and initiate discussion of edgy topics

Christina Vessa

Junior criminology major, Tracy Bullington and junior psychology major, Anastasia Soroka educate students on alcohol consumption. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)
Junior criminology major, Tracy Bullington and junior psychology major, Anastasia Soroka educate students on alcohol consumption. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

Bananas, condoms and bead necklaces. These are things CREWS peer educators present to Colorado State students to talk about health and wellness safety.

CREWS – Creating Respect and Educating Wellness for/by Students is a student-led organization in coordination with the Colorado State University Health Network. The goal of peer educators is to inform students about edgy topics, like sexual health, alcohol and tobacco education, in an interactive manner.

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The non-judgmental, peer-to-peer strategy is what makes CREWS effective, according to Faculty Advisor Gwen Sieving.

“They see bananas and condoms all over, everyone just starts laughing and having fun with it,” said Emma Myers, CSU graduate of 2012 and current CREWS member. “I think the energy of that topic with our age group is a lot of fun.”

Tessa Allen, health and exercise science senior, has been a peer educator of CREWS for three years. She said because of the different health perspectives within the CSU community, learning from fellow Rams could make those controversial topics more approachable.

“It is more meaningful and interesting if it is not coming from authority, especially with this age group,” Allen said.

The topics are presented in an interactive manner through hands-on presentations using health facts, tools and resources.

“Is That a Banana in Your Pocket?” is just one of the lighthearted presentations which describes solely the risks and facts of sexual health in an open, explicit manner. Peer educators make it their job to educate students in university settings, like tailgates at football games, the academic classroom and residence halls.

CREWS is making an attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription medication and marijuana. They are starting to distribute bags at the CSU Health Network which say, ‘Legal isn’t always safe.’

Sieving has led the group since its start in 2003. She said since the peer educators are students, they are able to reach out to the CSU campus in all settings where health issues take place, like parties.

“We have students guestimate how much they drink and then measure it out and tell them how many drinks it actually is, and how it will effect them,” Sieving said.

When teaching and educating about topics like alcohol consumption, Sieving said members make it a priority to become comfortable with one another. This is done through an annual retreat and team dinners.

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Sieving said being a member of CREWS provides a neutral a way to connect with people while learning leadership, communication, critical thinking and organizational skills that encourage discussion. The training peer educators receive, which results in a national certification and class credit, is just one of the perks that comes along with this organization.

CREWS is welcoming applicants for the 2014-15 school year, and is accepting applications until Sept. 29 by emailing crews@colostate.edu.

“If you are interested in having a community on campus and learning how to speak to people about really important and sensitive issues, this is a great place to start,” said Monica Dupler, human nutrition and food science junior.

Collegian Reporter Christina Vessa can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @chrissyvessa.