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ETSU sororities excel in public health challenge

By Nick Shepherd
On April 19, 2012

The public health challenge given to four East Tennessee State University sororities was a resounding success.

That was the message delivered at the April 11 meeting of the Public Health Student Association. The meeting was the last one before their new officers be sworn in.

Erika Wild, the current secretary of PHSA, helped to get the challenge off the ground.

"The challenge came about to me when I was having a conversation with Dr. Wykoff (dean of the College of Public Health)," said Wild. "How can we take ETSU to the next level as far as public health wise? How can we make individuals be aware of their health, their surroundings, their environment and their being, mentally and physically?"

The program was started this year. The PHSA didn't initially know if they could do something like this.

"As officers we met and talked about it," said Graduate President of PHSA Megan Quinn. "We just decided to go out and try it."

At first, the officers thought about having all student organizations involved. After some discussion, they decided since the program was new they would limit the participants.

"We decided to keep it small," said Quinn. "We just wanted to see if it was successful and it was."

Since Wild was involved with Greek life on campus, she decided that challenging sororities was the best way to see if the program would work.

The four sororities that were involved were Alpha Delta Pi, Kappa Delta, Sigma Kappa and Alpha Xi Delta.

The PHSA approached the sororities and asked if they would like to be a part of the challenge. All four readily accepted.

The challenge was simple: create programs that are centered on the five pillars of wellness. The five pillars consist of mental health, physical health, spiritual health, emotional health and social health.

"We challenged the sororities at first because they are very active on this campus," Wild said. "They do a lot of programs that are related to the five pillars of wellness."

The fitness challenge was new territory for the organization. The program would have to be completely self-motivated.

"We weren't sure how it was going to turn out," said Manuel Gonzalez, PHSA undergraduate president. "We weren't going to go to every other meeting to make sure they did what they were supposed to do."

So the sororities got to work on the challenge. One group named a fitness chair in order to coordinate fitness activities within the entire sorority.

They also had a "you make me smile" campaign, in which they handed out balloons outside of Charles C. Sherrod Library during midterm week.

Another group installed a campuswide Zumba workshop. The groups also had meditation workshops, stress-relief workshops and a how to study workshop. There were also small changes such as healthy food at organizational meetings and substituting soda for water.

At the end of the challenge, a winner would be chosen at the annual PSHA Well-a-palooza. The results were unexpected.

"I was very surprised," said Gonzalez. "It turned out a lot better than I would have ever imagined."

The judging was based on the workshops or events that the different groups offered. They were separated into the five different categories. They had to list how many individuals attended the programs, and they had to write an essay on what they learned from the challenge and what they got out of it.

"That (the essay) was probably the best part of reading the applications," Wild said. "You truly saw ... that they really did change and wanted the women of their chapter to be healthier."

The sororities did so well, officers decided to reward everybody. Sigma Kappa won silver status, Alpha Xi Delta won silver status, Alpha Delta Pi won gold status, and Kappa Delta won the entire challenge.

"They really, really did an amazing job with this," said Gonzalez. "They really took it beyond our imagination. It was really, really exciting."

Around 100 girls participated in the challenge. All four sororities combined produced 46 health-related programs. All of those programs affected 750 people campus and community wide, Wild said.

Since Wild is involved with sororities, she understood what kind of effect a challenge like this can have.

"I understand how if you tackle one big organization, it's kind of like a waterfall effect," Wild said. "They will tell their people in the organization ... and they affect people and then they affect people."

The program ran from just after fall break throughout the spring semester. The challenge was so successful that there are high hopes for next year.

"I hope next year we can challenge more of the organizations on campus," Wild said. "We would ultimately like to go to residence life and tackle RAs so they have a bunch of programs that they implement, especially for their individuals living in that dorm."

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