Students Helping Students
A Nourishing Space
Op-ed written by Marilyn Massey-Stokes, Ed.D., CHES, CWHC
College is a major transitional stage, and college students nationwide face a myriad of challenges that affect their health and wellness. The American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment has revealed that college students experience numerous health issues such as poor diet quality, food insecurity, lack of regular physical activity, overweight and obesity, lack of sleep, difficulties associated with work-school-life balance, relationship issues, stress, and anxiety. It is widely recognized that colleges and universities can play a key role in promoting the health and wellbeing of students. Not only can students benefit from health promotion efforts on a personal level, healthy students tend to perform better academically and experience greater life satisfaction (Lederer & Oswalt, 2017). Furthermore, healthy students are better prepared to contribute positively to their families, friends, neighbors, and society as a whole.
To promote the health and wellbeing of Texas Woman’s University (TWU) students, a new initiative called A Nourishing Space (ANS) promotes “students helping students.” ANS is funded through the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership and represents a collaboration among the TWU Health and Wellbeing Initiative, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, and the School of Health Promotion and Kinesiology. Through ANS, Nutrition and Health Studies majors are trained as nutrition and health student-coaches. ANS student-coaches learn and practice the skills needed to build their future health businesses by providing services to their peers free of charge. More specifically, student-coaches work with their peers to help foster healthy eating habits and other healthy behaviors. ANS student-coaches are not the experts; rather, they serve as guides, motivators, and accountability partners. ANS is a place where student-coaches listen without judgment and talk with their peers about their nutrition and health-related concerns.
On the nutrition side, TWU students who participate in one-on-one nutrition consultations obtain a range of benefits. For example, students learn how to set realistic goals for improving their eating habits while obtaining recipes and evidence-based information to help them achieve their goals. They also learn about how to eat intuitively and manage their weight. Although nutrition student-coaches are still completing academic requirements, they are supervised by a graduate student experienced in delivering nutrition consultations.
On the health and wellness side, TWU students have the opportunity to explore the six interrelated, focal areas of wellness—physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and occupational. Through one-on-one coaching sessions, students learn about visioning, goal setting, and accountability. They also partner with the student-coach to prioritize and set health and wellness goals aimed towards achieving meaningful growth in one or more of the focal areas of wellness. Although the health student-coaches are not licensed or certified, they are supervised by a Health Studies graduate student who is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach.
ANS is designed to enhance student health, wellbeing, and life satisfaction. Through experiencing nutrition and health coaching, TWU students receive encouragement and support as they develop increased self-awareness and self-efficacy to engage in meaningful, sustainable health behaviors. ANS is also a place where mutual growth can occur. Student-coaches hone their skills in nutrition and health coaching while helping their peers take steps forward in achieving lasting healthy behavior change. Karina Aguirre, an ANS student-coach, shared this insight: “ANS is the place to be curious about wellness and help people to find their own power.”
Guided by the motif of students helping students, the ANS initiative is a prime example of how TWU (the campus with a heart) promotes student health and wellness. ANS is unique in that it achieves a dual purpose: (1) providing education and resources to student-coaches interested in owning their own health business and (2) promoting the health and wellbeing of TWU students through peer-to-peer engagement. TWU students who participate in ANS receive encouragement and support as they work toward attaining nutrition and health goals that can lead to sustainable behavior change. Additionally, ANS supports TWU’s goals and strategic plans to advance student success and wellbeing.
Page last updated 2:18 PM, March 3, 2022