Emerging Leaders Program projects provide stress relief during COVID
In Binghamton University’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), new first-year and transfer students work together to develop and utilize effective leadership skills by creating connections within the University and local community. ELP students learn from student mentors and faculty/staff program advisors through specifically tailored, interest-based knowledge communities. As part of the program, participants apply leadership skills to impact the local community by developing service projects related to the theme of their knowledge community. The following projects were particularly innovative this year, as students worked around public health guidelines set in place due to the pandemic.
Supporting community health
Students in the Sports, Recreation and Wellness knowledge community partnered with TRYoga, a yoga studio in Binghamton, to host a virtual, free yoga class for members of the community. In addition to providing a fun, free and healthy activity for community members suffering from COVID fatigue, the group set up a raffle for a chance to win a month of free yoga classes at TRYoga studio. The students raised around $650, which will go to the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST).
According to Sophia Panos, a freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience, her team contacted the Catholic Schools of Broome County and six other school districts to advertise the event. The virtual class was open to local residents to encourage them to stay active and raise awareness for mental health issues and it attracted 30 community members.
“We had a million original ideas, but settled on the yoga fundraising idea because it was easy to administer during the pandemic and also benefited not just mental but physical health,” said Panos.
Peja Breuler, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and psychology, served as an ELP mentor in the fall 2020 semester. He explained the project’s purpose.
“We were focused on a project for families, but then we broadened it to the community,” said Breuler. “This project would help people destress and relax the body and mind during this chaotic time. We decided mental health was very important to all age groups, and the pandemic was taking a toll on everyone’s mental health. We hoped MHAST could help people get through difficult times and help their mental health through the numerous programs and opportunities that they administer.”
Providing fun stress relief for local youth
The Public Service knowledge community was also actively engaged in the local community this past semester. This group attracts students who are interested in government service, non-profit organizations, understanding community issues and needs, law, education and social activism. They partnered with the Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference, a comprehensive child welfare organization specializing in addressing the needs of youth and families impacted by trauma through youth programs, a foster care network, a school and residential facilities on their campus.
After exploring the Center for Civic Engagement’s website to find organizations to partner with and discovering the Children’s Home, the group decided that creating activity kits and care packages for youth in foster care and other youth programs would be the best way to serve them.
According to Sarah Crawford, a freshman majoring in business administration, the Public Service group created 75–100 care packages for children at the Children’s Home. Members of the team provided materials for youth to create stress balls and included all necessary supplies, such as white socks, markers, rice and ribbon. The group also included playing cards, bubbles and lip balm for everyone receiving a package.
“We decided that creating activity packages for some of the children would be a good way to help the kids relax and find time for fun, even during the pandemic,” said Crawford. “We loved this idea because the children can use their creativity to make their stress ball exactly how they want it.”
To fund the packages, the group raised around $300 through social media posts and sending flyers to family and friends of Binghamton University students. Crawford said that the decision to work with the Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference was a great learning experience for the group, and she hopes to continue to establish a connection with the organization in the future.
“The Children’s Home does such amazing work and helps so many kids through numerous programs and services,” said Crawford. “I would love to continue working with them through similar projects and hopefully, once things return to normal, visit their campus and meet some of the incredible children they serve. I am so glad we connected with them for our service project!”