ALTOONA, Pa. — At each of its campuses, Penn State makes an ongoing commitment to its students, faculty, and staff. Part of its mission is to provide a top-notch education while another is comprised of fostering social and personal growth.
At Penn State Altoona, this latter goal is carried out through many programs offered by Health and Wellness and the Health Advisory Board (HAB). This committee helps plan and provide wellness activities and events throughout the academic year that emphasize and educate on topics including physical, mental, and sexual health.
Board members hold monthly meetings to discuss new and continuing programs, some based on what students have requested. “Our work is creating a culture of wellness across campus. We want students and staff to build on those foundation blocks and become familiar with who we are,” said Jessica Mock, mental health outreach coordinator and HAB member.
A new project for the upcoming academic year is the collaboration between HAB and the college’s kinesiology program. Through research, HAB has found a higher success rate of students who are mentored by their peers. Consequently, the board is planning two mentorship programs. In one, kinesiology majors will help develop exercise regiments for students who might not know how to work out safely and effectively on their own. They will also educate others about available facilities and resources in the Adler Athletic Complex including the Reliance Bank Fitness Center, the kinesiology wing, the auxiliary gym, and the natatorium. Another program will pair new students and faculty and staff with senior level kinesiology majors who will design workouts, nutrition plans, and prepare mental wellness classes. This mentorship program gives seniors a chance to showcase what they have learned throughout their time at Penn State and gives new students a way to better their overall health and mental wellness.
Another program in the works is a weekly health and wellness newsletter that one senior level kinesiology student will write. The newsletter will include details about upcoming Health and Wellness events as well as tips and information to help students, faculty, and staff increase their overall wellness. “We want people from across the University to utilize [these programs] if they need to. I think healthy faculty, staff, and students equals success in different ways than just academically,” said Mock on how she wants these programs to impact the Penn State community.
HAB also works closely with the Penn State Altoona Athletics and Recreation programs throughout the year to offer opportunities for movement and exercise. “Our office thoroughly enjoys working with the Health Advisory Board, and we look forward to continuing programming for our campus community,” said Coordinator of Intramurals and Recreational Sports John Carey. Their collaboration provides a variety of recreational fitness classes such as yoga, spin, and Zumba. Intramural sports like volleyball, flag football, basketball, and badminton take place throughout the year for all skill levels, along with club sports like rugby, ice hockey, running, and cheerleading. Building new friendships, group loyalty, sportsmanship, and respect while giving participants an outlet for stress relief is what makes these programs so impactful for HAB and the campus.
On its own, HAB has created many events that have become tradition at Penn State Altoona. Break the Red Zone is a current initiative that starts in September and helps inform students about sexual assault and violence prevention. Some of the highest number of sexual assault cases happen within the first six weeks, the “red zone,” of a new student’s college experience. Break the Red Zone has been running for the last five years and is a part of Stand for State, Penn State’s bystander intervention program where students learn ways to watch out for each other and act against any type of violence. The program also provides self-defense training for students and faculty.
One of the more popular programs that HAB offers to students is De-Stress Week which is held each semester during finals. The De-Stress Room allows students to enjoy relaxing mood lighting, music, and activities like coloring along with healthy snacks and tea. An instructor calms student’s bodies and minds with guided meditation on Meditation Monday, and Hugs for Hounds provides support to students by allowing them to interact with therapy dogs. “The thing I enjoy most about De-Stress Week is that it allows me to take a step back and breathe during finals and takes a lot of the stress off my shoulders. I don’t feel as tied down to one area and can just simply breathe, especially during such an intense time,” said senior Sarah Hall on how she utilizes the program.
The Health Advisory Board is just one way that Penn State Altoona dedicates itself to creating a more fit and well-rounded life for students in and out of the classroom. For more information, email the board at [email protected], or visit the Health Advisory Board page.
Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications