Education - Page 6 - Want to make a difference? Join the club

- Page 6
Want to make a difference? Join the club
These student organizations have big impact on communities

By Lisa Baldino, Contributing Writer

Want to make a difference? Join the club!

That’s what the leaders of Active Minds at Anne Arundel Community College, iDiversity at the University of Maryland, and Nursing Students for Harm Reduction at Johns Hopkins University are saying to their on-campus peers. Among the hundreds of clubs and activities offered at colleges, these are student organizations that make an impact on the community around them. The programs they develop allow members to work to a higher cause and get the real-world experience necessary for success in the job market.

Active Minds at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) is a new addition to the school’s list of 120 clubs, and it is designed to support mental health awareness for students. “These students are passionate about raising awareness of suicide prevention,” says Denise Portis, psychology professor at AACC and the Active Minds advisor. “Mental health has not been seen as an illness or a disability. It’s not been talked about, but we need to start changing the conversation about mental health. We need to give people the confidence to talk about it openly.”

Portis says suicide resulting from mood disorders and anxiety disorders is a huge problem on college campuses. “Sixty-seven percent of college students will tell someone they’re going to commit suicide before they do it,” Portis says. “Our message is to let them know they’re not alone. We can raise awareness about mental illness and show them that there are coping mechanisms, medications and the probability of living a victorious life.”

One of the events that the group of about 50 students hopes to bring to Anne Arundel County is “Send Silence Packing,” a traveling exhibit for college campuses across the country. The exhibit uses the backpack visual and actual backpacks filled with resources for mental health. It raises awareness and helps communities start conversations that advocate a positive atmosphere for mental health. It inspires action for suicide prevention.

While Active Minds is a student club on the AACC campus, it is open to everyone in the campus community, Portis says. Only students can run for officer positions and meetings are bimonthly on campus. Portis says the group functions as a chapter of the national organization. “When I started to pursue the idea of the club and presented it to the AACC administration, they were so supportive – from the psychology department chair, Dr. [Lori] Perez, to the chief diversity officer, Dr. [Deidra] Dennie,” Portis says.

At the University of Maryland, College Park, students who are striving for a job that allows them to help underserved people and communities can join iDiversity. According to iDiversity faculty advisor and co-director of the master of library and information science, Paul Jaeger, his department team was looking for ways to create opportunities for MLIS students to engage in service activities to diverse communities before they graduate. Jaeger is also a professor and diversity and inclusion officer at the school. Students would learn how to do a community service project and how to handle requests from the community. The result: The Conference on Inclusion and Diversity in Library and Information Science that Jaeger says is a cutting- edge contribution to the professional community. The conference attracts several hundred people, including professors and students.

The members of iDiversity are also exposed to more opportunities and a wide range of activities, says Caroline Drogin, president of iDiversity and a graduate student in the MLIS program. She says people who want to join are placed on teams based on their interests and current events in the library and information industries. Some of the projects they’ve completed include the creation of a dedicated family room space in the campus library for parents who may need to bring their children, an LGBT self-defense program and a training program on dealing with drug overdoses.

Most recently, the iDiversity students piloted a digital literacy program for homeless people. The project was the brainchild of Mayanke Jha, a student in the master of information management program. She explains, “I always wanted to do something within the homeless community. I saw that many homeless people can’t get jobs because they don’t have a computer, or they don’t know how to use one.” She proposed educating these people to use a computer, complete online job applications and send emails for jobs. The program proved successful in Washington, D.C., this summer.

Although Drogin only joined the iDiversity group last spring, she has experienced its momentum from so many successes. She says she expressed an interest in being president, and was immediately appointed to the position. Now, she hopes to keep that momentum going. “I want to keep people coming back,” she says. Jaeger, who has been with the program for 12 years, says the challenge is that the degree program is only two years, so students have to work quickly.

Nursing Students for Harm Reduction at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is also a group of students striving for awareness and even a culture change. Meredith Kerr, a graduate student pursuing a doctorate degree at JHU and the co-leader of the group, says it evolved because the students perceived no direct response to the opioid problem. “The current treatment is abstinence. Harm

Clubs, continued on page 10

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Above left: Meredith Kerr and Julia Cohn, members of the Nursing Students for Harm Reduction student organization, prepare to present an opiate overdose and Narcan training to students, faculty and staff at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

Looking for a club?

If you’d like to make a difference on your college campus and in your community, look for clubs and organizations that advocate for a cause that’s meaningful to you. Most colleges have clubs that promote diversity, mental health awareness, disease awareness and community programming. Many campus organizations also have favorite charities and do community service, but it may not be their primary focus. Some to consider:

Best Buddies – multiple campuses – establishes volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities;

Boys & Girls Clubs – multiple campuses – provides safe place for learning;

iDiversity, University of Maryland, College Park diversity and inclusion in the library science profession;

Active Minds, Anne Arundel Community College or find a chapter at

Harm Reduction, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Baltimore, attacking the opioid crisis with treatments that work;

Destination H.O.M.E. (Helping Others More Every Day), UMBC, Baltimore – addresses homelessness awareness;

Alzheimer’s Awareness Club, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Md. – raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease;