June 17, 2020
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COVID-19 could not stop a determined group of UNT Dallas students from fulfilling their mission.

Even as the virus shut down a nationwide health education workshop program, UNT Dallas students found a way to continue delivering those important workshops to 10th-graders at KIPP Oak Cliff Academy.

In partnership with Peer Health Exchange (PHE), Trailblazers Jordan Russell, Janeth Carranza and Megan Freeland, plus UNT Denton student Fatima Khan, were conducting in-person workshops at KIPP Oak Cliff Academy during the spring semester, but the spread of COVID-19 put an end to that in March.

The public health crisis led PHE to cancel the workshops altogether across the country. The UNT Dallas students, though, weren’t ready to let the virus dictate the terms. They found an alternate way to conduct the workshops, and tailored topics to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This did not stop the UNTD-PHE work-study students from showing up for the young people of Dallas,” PHE Senior Manager Amanda Sale said. “Once local high schools began to transition to remote learning, the UNTD-PHE work-study students immediately mobilized … and facilitated the first virtual PHE health workshops in the country, and in our 20 years of existence.”

The UNT Dallas students first distributed a needs-assessment survey to the KIPP Oak Cliff Academy students to determine which health topics were of most interest. Then they worked closely with the high school staff to coordinate the logistics of facilitating virtual health workshops.

Once they were able to conduct the lessons virtually, they implemented three consecutive online workshops: Coping While Social Distancing, Mental Health Support During COVID-19 and Self-Care and Beyond.

“The transition to an online teaching environment wasn’t necessarily easy, but our facilitators faced the challenge of delivering online content head-on and did a phenomenal job of providing space for high school students to learn, think and be heard,” said UNT Dallas Experiential Learning Coordinator Eronia King. “Seeing the students interact with each other and discuss difficult topics was eye-opening and awe-inspiring.”

King initiated the partnership with PHE last semester believing that there was a need for health education in the southern Dallas community. PHE’s mission to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and resources to make healthy decisions meshed with UNT Dallas’ own community-based mission.

“I am a strong believer that the best way to help people is to educate them,” said Carranza, a Public Health major. “I believe that the school curriculum is lacking in most forms of public health and that it would benefit the community in the long run. I am a Public Health major and I wish to help others and gain more experience in this field.”

UNT Dallas students interested in joining the Peer Health Exchange program can click here and submit the form.

“I wanted to join PHE to become one of the leading people to inform young adolescents about the importance of health, and let them know that they do have options and can make their own choices,” said Freeland, an Environmental Biology major.