Christian Perry: Reflections as a peer educator
Oct. 16, 2019
Christian Perry is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing in the College of Arts and Letters. They serves as a peer educator with Prevention, Outreach and Education, or POE.
When I joined the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Peer Education Program, or SARV, in 2016, we were small. But the work we were able to do as such a small program on campus was incredible.
We went out on a campaign of compassion, facilitating the workshops — as undergraduate students — for first-year undergraduate students. Simply because we all felt compelled enough to be doing the work. When we got to a workshop, our focus was on engaging with students immediately. Our workshops were framed as conversations and, yes, we had a lot of information to work through, but we worked through it all together.
It was not always easy to lead a workshop; students didn’t always find what we were talking about relevant or necessary to know, and sometimes students objected so harshly to what we were discussing that they would leave the workshop before it had concluded.
Every individual invested in the work here comes together as though we are family; we pull each other close during stressful times because we know what we are doing is important.
It’s been over three years since I began learning how to do the work of a peer educator. During this time, I’ve learned ways to refine my abilities, and the program has grown.
Today, we are a department that pulls together five required programs for different student populations, an entire week dedicated to combating rape culture and voluntary programming provided to anyone and everyone requesting our presence or organizing power. We are still a family. We are still students who are working with the same interest in mind — supporting each other through the difficulties of putting ourselves on the front line of social activism.
In the workshops, we as peer educators are leading the conversations. We do have an agenda, with clearly determined goals for what students should get out of these conversations we are having. We spend thirty-two hours at the beginning of each fall semester learning and then refreshing the information relevant to working within the program. This is four entire days over three weekends in September that is volunteered, so that we can be prepared to positively impact our community through these difficult but necessary conversations.
I really cherish the opportunity to engage with students my age about these topics. While we may not know the direct impact our conversations are having, I do feel that we have positively impacted the culture at Michigan State. And I do know that we will continue to do the work to spark the conversations in our jobs and daily lives.