Texas A&M University Student Body President Amy Sharp and her Student Government Association leadership team took the reins of student government this year hoping to make a positive impact that would outlive their time in Aggieland.
Their desire to serve at a time when a national dialogue on mental and physical health resulted in Sharp and her team launching the “Say Howdy to Health” initiative this fall, which hopes to bridge the gap between students and existing health related resources on campus.
“When we work to educate students and connect them with the support they need, we can improve the likelihood of them having a safe, healthy experience at Texas A&M, and at the end of the day,” Sharp said, “that is more important than anything else.”
Aggies are famous for giving a hearty “Howdy!” when greeting each other, but the Say Howdy to Health initiative turns the phrase inward to encourage the Texas A&M community to take stock of four phases of health: nutrition, fitness, safety and mental health.
Sharp says she wants every student to know three things from the moment they hear their first “howdy:”
- Your health is important while you’re a college student
- There are resources that already exist to help you
- How to access those resources
“By educating students, especially freshmen, about how to live healthy and look out for the health of their fellow Aggies, the culture of A&M shines through and the tradition of living healthy while you’re here will pass down,” Sharp said. “If we can get freshmen to really understand how to take care of their health as a college student, those freshmen become Fish Camp counselors who educate their freshmen, and the cycle continues. That’s how we plan to have a long term impact.”
In order for the campaign to achieve its goals, Sharp and her team developed an outreach and awareness action plan that will highlight a wide range of Texas A&M services that include dining, counseling, sexual assault awareness and recreation among many others.
Dr. Mary Ann Covey, director of Texas A&M’s Student Counseling Services, has been a collaborator on the initiative since Sharp took office and said that more students have sought counseling services than ever before in her 30 years of experience at Texas A&M.
Much of the uptick in activity is because the call to improve student health is coming from the students themselves, who can relate to contemporary college life rather than administrators and professionals who might have been out of school for years or decades.
“When students reach out to students, they get such a better response and a better understanding,” Covey said. “When you hear it from a professional, students are respectful and they listen, but when they will say ‘you don’t get what our experience is and the pressure we face.’”
Covey also said the Say Howdy to Health’s holistic approach to improving student physical, dietary, mental health and safety is crucial, especially from a mental health perspective.
“This generation is very stressed and anxious overall, but they are also the worst sleepers, so our center really promotes healthy eating, going to the rec center and many other aspects of that,” Covey said. “If they take care of their health they can handle anxiety and stress much more effectively.”
As the initiative grows and evolves, Sharp wants to make sure every student knows one thing will always be true: help is there when you need it.
“I want all students to realize that they have the power to improve their own health and that resources exist to support them,” Sharp said. “Most importantly, Aggies are leaders and I want to see them taking care of other Aggies by using and sharing the knowledge they get, too.”
Media contact: Sam Peshek, 979-845-4680, email@example.com.