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HAWKS help students ‘Step Up!’ in risky situations

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By Sarah Buop, For The Miami Student

Students are given the opportunity to learn how to intervene in situations that could threaten the health and safety of others through a program called Step Up!, introduced to campus by the Hawks Peer Health Educators.

The University of Arizona Commitment to an Athlete's Total Success (C.A.T.S.) Life Skills Program designed this national-based program to train and teach students how to act when they feel they are "bystanders" of situations including alcohol abuse, hazing, sexual assault, eating disorders and discrimination.

After a survey between three universities, University of Arizona, University of California- Riverside and University of Virginia, Step Up! found almost 90 percent of students stated a problem that could have been avoided with intervention.

Leslie McNeill, assistant director for substance abuse and peer education at Miami, discussed how she became familiar with the program.

"I worked with someone back in 2007 who implemented the Step Up! program to athletes and members of Greek life," McNeill said. "We then used the program to teach Miami University students the general skills of being bystanders in risky situations."

To become familiar with the program, HAWKS Peer Health Educators Amanda Jeren and Maddy McDonough discussed how they were trained to teach other students on how to be a bystander.

"We met for about two hours every Wednesday for three weeks," Jeren said. "To train, we talked about different situations that you could safely intervene in, and we did our own practice by presenting to others how we would handle the situation."

The program uses the "Three D's" method (direct, delegate and distract) to create an effective strategy to interfere in almost every risky situation. The most common scenarios Step Up! used involve drugs, alcohol and eating disorders.

According to Jeren, the Step Up! program can be requested by anyone and is one hour long. Sororities and fraternities have requested to learn about the program at McGuffey Hall, and specific classes have been taught at the Farmer School of Business and Pearson Hall.

"When we train students we begin with a poll using clicker devices to test how comfortable they would feel to intervene in an unsafe situation," McDonough said. "Most of the students are comfortable, however, on occasion people will be honest and speak up about how they would feel uncomfortable intervening."

This program uses five steps in the decision-making process of intervening in an unsafe situation. It suggests noticing the event, interpreting the event as a problem, assuming personal responsibility, knowing how to help and then finally stepping up.

"There are around 20 HAWKS Peer Health Educators, and depending on the size of the attendants we will accommodate how many people present," Jeren said. "This is the first year we have taught the Department of Education and Leadership (EDL) classes. In the EDL classes of 60-80 students, we have between eight and 10 Hawks come to facilitate small groups and present."

McDonough explained how, during the training, students would go into break out sessions and practice different scenarios. The HAWKS Peer Health Educators then show two videos about how a situation can end up if no one interferes to help, and how it can end up when someone does interfere.

"One video is about a scenario where a girl drank too much alcohol and a guy is trying to take her home with him," Jeren said. "The video shows how the scene can end up when no one intervenes, ending with the girl going home with him. Then it shows a different scene where one of the girl's friends intervenes by asking her if she wants to go to the bathroom, ending with the girl going home with her friend."

Situations involving drugs, alcohol or eating disorders are not the only ways the Step Up! program can be used. Bystanders of abusive relationships or depression can also use the program's strategies to make a change.

"After taking polls at the beginning of each program and the end; asking about how comfortable they feel about stepping into situations or if they have before, we always see an improvement," Jeren said. "Students indicate they now have the tools to be a Good Samaritan."