Student Wellness Ambassadors Setareh Tehrani and Carissa Samuel are forces of good at Ohlone College. Both are biology majors and passionate about mental health advocacy and STEP Up every day as they serve fellow students with information, support, and programs through the Ohlone Student Health Center. Here, they share their stories and what STEP Up offers the community.
Setareh Tehrani "I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 15 years old, not knowing any English. Not only was I a teenager going through hormonal changes, I had to adapt to my new life as well. Leaving everything from my home country and not being able to communicate with others really took a toll on my mental health, and I struggled with depression. However, I had a very strong support system and, after going to therapy, I overcame my depression. When I started Ohlone, I wanted to be an advocate for mental health. I wanted to help those individuals who did not have a strong support system so that they feel empowered to ask for help. I decided to become a Student Wellness Ambassador because I wanted to support others and increase mental health literacy."
Carissa Samuel "When I chose to begin my Ohlone journey in 2019, I had one goal. I wanted to actively be a part of the community that I loved. During the past two years, I have been blessed by my experiences here. Being an Ambassador and using my voice to help students and especially fellow Asian-Americans, makes me feel extremely honored. I feel more connected to myself and more empowered. I have learned how to promote wellness, how to access resources, and how to advocate. I have become healthier in my heart myself and feel proud to benefit those around me as well."
Students Together in Education Prevention (STEP Up) was created over ten years ago after the tragic loss of an Ohlone College community member triggered the college community to come together and begin conversations around mental health. STEP Up is a program under the Student Health Center and offers a variety of student engagement programs—the signature program being Student Wellness Ambassadors.
From its beginning, STEP Up has hosted events, provided resources, and united the Ohlone College community to work towards advancing student mental health. Continuing this positive work has required STEP Up to evolve to better serve the student population and what better way to reach students than to have peer-to-peer contacts. To be able to do this, STEP Up created its signature Student Wellness Ambassador program where students use their voice to advance STEP Up’s mission. As Student Wellness Ambassadors, we understand that mental health is invisible, and sometimes, as humans, we tend not to view our mental health as important as our physical health. However, at the Student Health Center, we believe mental health is the foundation of wellbeing.
At STEP Up, we have three goals in mind:
- We want to reduce the stigma around mental health issues.
- We want to help students increase their sense of belonging.
- We want to encourage help-seeking behaviors among students.
Student Wellness Ambassadors offer 15 and 30-minute classroom presentations to all Ohlone classes and student groups where we talk about the student health center's services which include both physical health and mental health services. As Student Wellness Ambassadors, we also host a variety of events throughout the semester. We have our own podcast called Note to Self where, in each episode, we address a mental health-related topic and our “podsquad” members share their own experiences and journey. As ambassadors, we encourage students to be expressive when creating art and to use their creativity to bring to light their challenges and triumphs with mental health. We offer students a place to express their artwork including paintings, poems, music, and drawings through our virtual art gallery. And, in order to enhance student pride in Ohlone and to increase connection in a time where we are physically separate, we have created an online magazine that features students and the Ohlone community at large.
Being a Student Wellness Ambassador is more than a paid position. It is a learning experience where you truly learn to be compassionate, and you want to see your peers succeed in their endeavors. You try to be the lending hand that some students have never had. You become your peer’s voice, and you advocate for their well-being. You succeed in your journey not because you are doing well in your classes but because you are helping your peers succeed. Their success becomes your success, and you learn to pay the kindness of all the individuals who have helped you forward by being there for others.
At the end of the day, you are not alone! STEP Up Ohlone has been working hard for years to be there for you and to help our campus recognize the importance of mental health. Those who are in a better place mentally can make more of an impact on their own lives and the lives of those around them. We are committed to supporting you on your journey towards wellness. We both highly encourage you to apply to become a Student Wellness Ambassador for the 2021-2022 school year. Details and applications will be posted on April 15, 2021. For information visit, www.ohlone.edu/stepup. Please also check out our Linktree where we have a list of all of our events and additional information.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, the lifeline for the Alameda County Crisis Support Services is 1-800-309-2131, the number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and the text line is available if you text the word 'COURAGE' to 741, 741. Remember that we all go through challenging times, and the Student Health Center is committed to being here for you.