'Make the first move'

Jessie Hellmann

Imagine walking down the hallway, and a student being harassed, mocked or being otherwise picked on. Imagine going to  a party, and a friend who has had too much to drink heading for his or her car. What do you do?

The USI counseling center staff wants to encourage students to speak up and stand up, as part of the “Make the First Move” campaign. The campaign is a series of promotions around campus to encourage students to step in when they see anything from bullying to sexual assault happening.

Staff Counselor Stephanie Cunningham heads the “Make the First Move” and is present on campus, handing out bracelets, candy and information about both the center and the programs it is now offering.

Counselor Center Assistant Director Leslie Smith said she thinks stepping in is important to stress, both on and off campus.

“People can often suffer from the bystander effect,” Smith said. “They can be afraid to be involved. Many bad things can be prevented by someone just stepping forward.”

As the head of disability services at the center, Smith said she is especially excited about reaching out to students, especially towards students that don’t often visit the center.

“I want to be out there, it makes me more accessible,” Smith said. “Disability services are almost buried here in the counseling center, and I want students to get to us. It makes us less scary, and students will be more likely to use the services we offer here.”

Many new programs are being offered for students. Future events include themed movie nights, safety walks and distinguished speakers.

Counseling Center Director Thomas Longwell is already looking to the future.

“We are constantly changing and growing, seeking to provide a good quality of service,” Longwell said. “There is a negative perception of counseling, and we hope these outreach programs can show students that we are just nice, comforting people who want to help.”