PEACE members advocate for a safer and more educated campus

J’Mari HughesReporter

Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment, is an organization at Southern that said they are role models for making the camps a safer, more respectable place for students.

“We teach people things about healthy relationships, bystander intervention, affirmative consent, and resources and rights,” said club president Amanda Valentin. “But we have fun too.”

Valentin, a junior, said PEACE hosts tables, presentations and show movies on campus that can be both educational and fun for viewers. Off-campus, she said, they hold fundraisers to be able to do more programs and hopefully get their own t-shirts and have giveaways.

She said PEACE began at Southern the spring semester of 2017 by Jessica Holman and other students who were passionate about their type of work. Valentin, a survivor, first heard about it at a peer educator meeting.

“When PEACE started I got so excited because more students could get involved,” she said. “When I became president, I was like ‘yes, now I can tell people why I care so much.’”

Danae Sawchyn is PEACE’s marketing and promotions manager and said she liked to learn more about sensitive topics like sexual misconduct.

“I could feel more empowered to help other people,” said Sawchyn, an English major. “I’ve known people who have experienced unhealthy relationships or sexual violence so I wanted to become a more helpful community member.”

Sawchyn said she has been with PEACE since before it formed into an actual club. Since fall of 2016, she has been able to see the organization grow and change into what it is now, and said she thinks members are all putting in a solid effort to make it the best it can be and continue to help it grow and create more awareness.

She said she believes students should join not just to add to their current 48 members, but also because it is open to anyone.

“[Students] should know it’s an opportunity to learn more about things you think you know about but might not and [it is] an opportunity to become an asset in the Southern community.”

Being a part of PEACE, vice president Benjamin Yambao said, helps members grow especially as students and gives a tangible and meaningful way to promote Southern’s standing.

“I would highly encourage other students to join, because the nature of our topics may seem overwhelming or difficult to talk about,” he said, “but when you have an atmosphere and other members involved, you can have these conversations that otherwise you might not have been able to.”

Senior and social work major Yambao said one of his favorite things about being in PEACE is the bonds shared among the other members.

“PEACE as a whole really has a lot of our work set out for us,” he said, “and also being able to know each other not just as colleagues, but as friends really helps make the work a lot easier to handle.”

Valentin said their goal is to make Southern a  healthy and fun place to be where people feel safe and comfortable. In PEACE, she said students can learn through education and events, or getting to know each other and finding those with similar interests.

“I feel like in order to do the education, you do have to be passionate about it,” she said. “You have to be driven and want to make the change.”

She said it is important for students to know what affirmative consent is and to recognize red flags of unhealthy and abusive relationships, as well as how to step in as a bystander and help put an end to sexual violence.

“We are here for [students] as a club, but also as a resource,” Valentin said. “We’re also here as friends and people to reach out to. Everyone here has a heart of gold.”

Photo Credit: J’Mari Hughes

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