Their goal is to share accurate information about the effects that drugs, alcohol and HIV have on their fellow students as well as other residents in the territory. Three formal training sessions held earlier this semester brought all the program’s students together to hear from experts in their respective fields, according to Program Coordinator Alyssa Ryan. The trainings, a mandatory aspect of the program, featured Dr. Peggy Glider from the University of Arizona; Vanessa Cooke, director of Bowie State University’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Center; and UVI alumna Japheth Auguste, who works as a professional counselor in Florida.
Glider shared details of a program she runs that is designed to reduce high-risk drinking among college students and others ages 18 to 24 using campus-based media campaigns and other strategies to address misperceptions about alcohol. Cooke conducted a Certified Peer Educators Training session designed to improve listening skills, develop socially inclusive outreach efforts, and share techniques to successfully encourage individuals to take action steps for change. All Peer Educators work to achieve certification.
Auguste’s training focused on an in-depth look at the effects of alcohol and marijuana on different parts of the body, and how students can translate that information to their peers. She also discussed the possible legalization of marijuana in the Virgin Islands and how to handle situations where Peer Educators encounter students who strongly favor the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana.
The work of Peer Educators continues throughout the year. The program is part of UVI’s larger Substance Abuse and HIV Prevention Program, which is funded by a major grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.
Peer Educators pose with presenter Dr. Peggy Glider, in red, from the University of Arizona during a training session in September.