Peer coaching program helps Huskers find resilience in college
Between moving away from family, making new friends, taking harder classes and navigating an unfamiliar city, the transition to college life can sometimes have bumps in the road.
A new program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Big Red Resilience and Well-being, is helping students remain strong throughout those ups and downs. The organization was founded in fall 2018 and consists of 32 trained undergraduate, graduate and professional student volunteers, known as peer coaches, that educate fellow Huskers on how to utilize campus resources and ultimately have a happier and healthier university experience.
“A lot of students are intimidated to seek out academic advisers or go to counseling, because they don't know if adults will relate to them the same way another student would,” said Clayton Wilson, a junior Big Red Resilience coach majoring in psychology and secondary education.
“I think that's the important part of having a peer talk to you. Because you know that student’s gone through stuff that you've also gone through, and you kind of know where they're coming from.”
Located in room 127 of the University Health Center, Big Red Resilience and Well-being is free for all undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Nebraska. Students can make appointments online or walk in between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During their visit, they can receive advice about their emotional, physical and social health, career readiness, financial well-being and more.
Before interacting with any students, all peer coaches in the program are required to complete comprehensive training that prepares them for the position. Coaches are also trained to refer students to a licensed mental health professional in Counseling and Psychological Services if they are in need of more serious help.
“A big part of it is just listening to them and letting them get everything off their chest. Then, we’ll direct them towards resources on campus that we think can help them. The goal is to get them to come back the next week and the week after that,” Wilson said. “We try to set goals with them and make them as specific as possible, with timetables, kind of giving them homework with ways they can better themselves in the areas they want to improve.”
Wilson, originally from Kearney, was keen to get involved in Big Red Resilience and Well-being after having a tough freshman year himself. Visiting CAPS his first semester, he said, transformed his college experience for the better — and he wants to use his position as a peer coach to encourage students to reach out for help as well.
“I went to counseling when I was a freshman, and I was really intimidated. It took a lot of courage. What I thought is that asking for help maybe makes you weak, and there's kind of a stigma behind it. People just want to carry their burdens by themselves and not have to trouble others,” Wilson said. “But asking for help doesn't make you weak. I think it actually makes you stronger, because you put yourself out there and you're vulnerable.”
Entering his second year of coaching, Wilson is excited to see the impact of Big Red Resilience on the campus community. He’s also looking forward to the position as a way to develop a future career working with students.
“I wanted to join because being a psychology major, I’m interested in counseling, so this was a preview of what it would be like. And I just knew, my freshman year, I definitely could have used a resource like this.”
“I feel like, even if I just help out one person, it’s a win and it’s all worth it.”
Students can learn more about the services Big Red Resilience and Well-being offers here.