The opening of the campus community centre celebrates student wellness services, leadership opportunities and a place to connect.
At 11 a.m. on Jan. 29, an opening ceremony took place in front of the centre’s location at room 104 on the main floor of Marquis Hall, the former Peer Health offices. During the event, Peter Hedley, director of student affairs and services, said the USask Community Centre was key to a “multidimensional approach” to support student wellness.
“At the centre, students can learn about health and wellbeing at the same time as making connections and building community, and for us, wellness is all about connection,” Hedley said.
The USask Community Centre provides students with various wellness activities, ranging from spiritual guidance to yoga, and it is the headquarters for Peer Health services on campus.
The centre has been operating for four years, but to celebrate the official opening, Peer Health gave “sneak peak workshops” of the services being offered. The centre held workshops on breathing exercises, healthy eating habits and managing stress throughout the day.
According to Hedley, this health education program provides leadership and volunteer opportunities to the students as well as services. He says that in 2019, student volunteers designed and implemented over 200 health promotion and harm reduction initiatives which accounted for 4,500 volunteer hours.
“They’re doing critical work for us because we know that peer-to-peer models are among the most effective things that we can do in this space,” Hedley said. “People like me standing up in front of students is not the best way to educate, but we know that students actually talking to students is.”
Hedley says it’s been great to see individuals who have been involved in volunteering for the program continue to focus on student wellness in their professional lives.
“It’s an exciting day in particular to hear from students who are both involved in the program now, but also people who graduated from the university and are still with us doing this work,” Hedley said.
Shiney Choudhary, the project co-ordinator for the Student Wellness Centre and MC for the event, began volunteering for Peer Health during her first year of university in 2014. She says the leadership skills and friends she gained through volunteering helped during her time as an undergraduate student.
“Raising awareness about health issues has helped me improve my own lifestyle and be better at supporting the people around me,” Choudhary said. “I am grateful for the opportunities that Peer Health has offered me and will continue to offer through the USask Community Centre.”
The official opening of the centre coincided with Bell Canada’s national mental-health awareness campaign “Let’s Talk Day.” Hedley says that the opening was a good opportunity to showcase that being a part of a community is vital to mental health.
“We often talk about clinical and professional supports and actually a lot of the time what students really need is just connection with one another — a place to connect and an opportunity to connect,” Hedley said.
He adds that the USask’s Community Centre’s location across from the campus bookstore and Tim Hortons is a good central site that offers an accessible way for students to receive wellness services.
“By locating this space right at the centre of campus, we have made it a bit simpler for students to stop by, catch their breath and feel a part of something,” Hedley said.
Noah Callaghan/ Staff Writer
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor