RISE Oxford High is a peer wellness education program that was founded by Meg Hayden and Kakky Brown in November 2017. It was modeled after peer wellness programs found on many college campuses across the United States. The sponsors identified a greater level of need to support the student body with a variety of wellness issues. This need was identified by the large number of students that approached them individually because they were struggling with things like mental health, substance abuse, sexual health, and vaping.
The peer-to-peer model was chosen after research revealed that at this developmental stage, this was the most effective way to educate teens on teen-related issues. The group grew from 9 members in 2017-2018 to 18 members in August of 2018. With the assistance of the OSDF grant, these 18 RISE members became the first certified peer educators in a public high school in the country. In addition, the OSDF grant funded the sponsors’ “train the trainer” program so that they could not only train the first group of 18 RISE members, but continue to train new members as the program expanded.
At the start of the 2019-2020, RISE gained 27 new members. We now have a total of 37 certified peer educators at Oxford High School.
During the 2018-2019 school year, RISE members delivered presentations on stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide to over 225 9th-grade students in the leadership classrooms. RISE created two anti-vaping public service announcements featuring Ole Miss football players and Mr. and Ms. Ole Miss. They created another public service announcement for their campus-wide wellness campaign targeting stress management. This PSA featured the benefits of yoga and was used to advertise the weekly “Mindful Monday” yoga classes offered to all students. These PSAs had the potential of reaching all of the OHS students by being posted on Schoology and rotated on the OHS screens.
During the current school year, RISE has delivered their stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide presentation to all 120 students in the 9th grade leadership classes during the fall semester. In addition, RISE has hosted a total of 4 parent nights featuring Tony Caldwell on Stress/Anxiety and Suicide/Depression, two in the spring of 2019 and two in the fall of 2019. RISE has aimed to educate students as well as their parents on these prevalent mental health topics. RISE is already scheduled to present this semester to the new leadership students, at the OLC, and in the classrooms of at least two other teachers who have requested them. They have created two wellness “pop-ups” as a part of their compassion campaign, both focused on self love and connection. These pop-ups hold the potential to reach all 1,273 students at Oxford High School. In addition, RISE will be partnering with the Wellness Center of Oxford to host their 3rd annual spring event that will feature wellness resources from all over the community.
Now, in the midst of the global pandemic, RISE has moved their Stress Management Campaign offerings to online forums which opens their spaces up to more students. They are actively providing resources and building community through their social media campaigns and challenges.