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Student Health Fair encourages belles to ‘Fall in Love with Wellness’

| Sunday, February 16, 2020

While Valentine’s Day is a time for romance, Friday’s “Fall in Love with Wellness” Student Health Fair encouraged students to practice self love with self care. 

The fair featured dozens of informational booths from campus and community organizations, therapy dogs, spin class demos, giveaways and an escape room. 

Heather Abbott, a counselor at the Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center, said though the Student Health Fair is only in its third year, it’s grown exponentially — and organizers hope it will only keep growing. 

“I love hearing students returning who say that they’ve had such a positive experience,” she said. “There’s new vendors every year, lots of great information and a lot of community partners. I think it’ll keep growing — it’s something that we plan to make an annual tradition.” 

Love Your Melon, the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO), Eco-Belles, the Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) and the Student Nurses Association were just some of the student groups that showed up to encourage students to live healthier lives and help those who are in need. 

“Love Your Melon is a campus wide program which provides education and activities to support pediatric cancer research,” president of the campus crew Bridget Julian said. 

The group partners with nonprofits DKMS, Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Make-a-Wish Foundation in order to fundraise for pediatric campus research through the sale of caps, beanies and t-shirts. 

“Our mission is to bring awareness to the pediatric patients and their families in South Bend,” Julian said. “Right now, we’re also signing people up to be bone marrow donors, so that’s just a small part of what we do to show our support and educate the local community.”

OCSE also made an appearance at the fair on behalf of others, encouraging students to craft Valentine’s Day cards for residents of South Bend’s Center for the Homeless. 

In the spirit of health and wellness, sophomore Cynthia Penaloza said OSCE was also asking students to sign up for their “Belles on Bikes’’ program which will allow students to meet up and take bike rides around South Bend together. 

Members of the Student Nurses Association promoted good habits at the fair through the practice of taking students’ blood pressure and handing out resources about mindfulness. 

“We’re making students aware of their current health and providing them with ways that they can fix it,” senior nursing major Emily Casado said.

Casado said nursing students are not allowed to diagnose other students, but they can give advice on how to lead a healthy life. 

Practicing mindfulness is a great way for students to survive the many stresses of college, Casado said, and many of the nursing professors at Saint Mary’s swear by it. 

“One of our professors is a huge champion for mindfulness,” she said. “Before nursing exams, she’ll do mindful exercises and turn the lights down so everyone can relax. She’s done that for years and we’ve tried to carry that on.” 

BAVO director Liz Coulston said she wants to remind students that, “health isn’t just physical health — it’s psychological, too.” Coulston and her team were handing out self care assessments to students at the fair, which can help students effectively track the ways they are taking care of themselves but also neglecting their health and well-being. 

As for why BAVO was at the Student Health Fair, Coulston said staying healthy depends on one’s ability to take care of themselves and others in order to maintain a healthy community. 

“BAVO is a huge advocate for keeping everyone safe and healthy,” she said. “We learn through the Green Dot program how to look out for each other and notice potentially dangerous situations in order to intervene in a safe way.”

In addition to the many campus groups at the fair, some organizations came from the surrounding South Bend community to spread resources on health and wellness to the students of Saint Mary’s. 

Kristen Sachman, a health specialist for the St. Joseph County Department of Health, said that their community outreach program tries to meet county residents where they are in order to provide them with information that could help them lead healthier lives.  

“It’s important that we’re on campus and really anywhere county residents are in order to help them practice healthful habits,” she said. “We brought a variety of resources of various topics — the topic of today seems to be healthy relationships, but it’s also flu season, so we brought some stuff for that, too.” 

While many of the organizations and groups present at the fair focused on individual or community health, Eco-Belles encouraged students to consider the health of their environment. 

“We want to keep our Mother Earth as healthy as possible because that will increase our health as well,” junior Katerina Esguerra said. “Getting rid of burning fossil fuels will help increase the health of our lungs and our entire body, and making everything natural can help stop toxic chemicals from going into our bodies.”

Esguerra said the group is spreading awareness about a new recycling initiative at the College. 

“There’s new products that can be recycled here, like clean cosmetic containers, shoes, oral care products and razors,” she said. “We’re accepting them in Moreau now, but our goal is to get bins in the residence halls.” 

All in all, Esguerra said the health of the planet affects everyone. 

“You can’t have a healthy life without a healthy environment,” she said.

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina