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de-stress Peer Helpers and Coordinators

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Peer Helpers

David Alley

David Alley, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Post-doc
Major: Education
Hometown: Springfield, MO
Favorite Food: Eggs
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Band/Singer: Leonard Cohen
Why you became a peer helper: It feels good to help others help themselves.

Anna Bahr

Anna Bahr, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Mankato, MN
Favorite Food: Pancakes
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Band/Singer: Jack Johnson and Amy Winehouse
Why you became a peer helper: Mental health is something that I am very passionate about. The stressors that come with being a college student can be detrimental to one's mental health and overall well-being. I chose to become a peer helper to serve as a resource for those who are stuggling with finding successful ways to overcome these stressors.

Audrey Blankenheim

Audrey Blankenheim, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Second Year of Graduate School
Major: Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology
Hometown: Appleton, WI
Favorite Color: de-stress teal
Favorite Band: Bon Iver, Beyonce, Asaf Avidan, and Adele. It changes daily.
Why I became a Peer Helper: College is stressful and finding the right resources can be challenging. I want to do what I can to make the pressures of college seem less daunting for college students.

Ashlyn Enga

Ashlyn Enga, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Junior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Andover, MN
Favorite Food: Chocolate
Favorite Color: Maroon and Black
Favorite Band/Singer: Lights
Why you became a peer helper: Very interested in helping and supporting others. I also am planning on going to graduate school to become a counselor and thought helping my peers would be a good place to start.

Abigail Gabriel

Abigail Gabriel, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA
Favorite Food: Ramen, udon, arroz caldo. Essentially: I love soup!
Favorite Color: Dark red or beige
Favorite Band: My taste oscillates between Beach House and Drake.
Why I became a Peer Helper: I am passionate about mental health literacy and accessibility across diverse populations, including one as rich with cultural and individual diversity as the U of M community. As a Peer Helper, I am excited to support students as they use de-stress to learn and practice stress-management techniques that can promote healthy minds and bodies throughout college and later life experiences.

Erin Gallagher

Erin Gallagher, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Child Psychology
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN
Favorite Food: Peanut Butter
Favorite Color: Purple
Favorite Band/Singer: Beyonce
Why you became a peer helper: I became a peer helper to help others navigate through everyday stressors that are involved with being a college student. It can be very overwhelming at times to have so much on your plate, but it's important to know that you're not alone and there are healthy ways to manage!

Christina Garasky

Christina Garasky, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Junior
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Kirkwood, MO
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Color: Navy Blue
Favorite Band: Daughtry
Why I became a Peer Helper: I became a Peer Helper because it is a great opportunity to help others and get more involved with the University.

Wenqi Luo

Wenqi Luo, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Math/Psychology
Hometown: Wuhan, China
Favorite Food: Berries, frozen yogurt and spicy food
Favorite Color: violet and blue
Favorite Band: Spanish and French songs, jazz and classical music
Why I became a Peer Helper: Although it's common for all college students to feel stressed out, no one deserves to endure the sadness and stress alone. Feeling like being supported, listened to and understood during the time of difficulty is really important. I would like to be the one to give you a hand, to stand by you and with you. This also fits with my dream career as a psychotherapist, my passion and my strengths.

Alicia Maltz

Alicia Maltz, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Freshman
Major: Psychology and Economics
Hometown: Princeton, MN
Favorite Food: Anything with Pesto
Favorite Color: Maroon
Favorite Band/Singer: Keaton Henson
Why you became a peer helper: I became a peer helper because I really understand how nice it can be to seek help from someone and just talk about your life, or problems that arise in life, and I know that not everyone has somebody that they can do this with in their life, so I want to be that person.

Ali Miller

Ali Miller, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Junior
Major: Biology, Society, and the Environment
Hometown: Rochester, MN
Favorite Food: Peanut butter
Favorite Color: Pink
Favorite Band: Taylor Swift
Why I became a Peer Helper: I am interested in counseling, and I've always tried to help my friends and family work through problems. I also want all college students to know that in any struggle they are going through, they are not alone, and they will get through it.

Elly Orcutt

Elly Orcutt, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Junior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Mankato, MN
Favorite Food: Ice Cream
Favorite Color: Gray
Favorite Band: Brandi Carlile, Bruce Springsteen, Dawes, and Alanis Morissette
Why I became a Peer Helper: Sometimes we have problems that are too big to deal with on our own, or we may not have anyone to talk to about the things that we struggle with. The Peer Helper program at the U of M is an invaluable tool for students in these situations and I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to help others one-on-one when they are stressed or just need someone to talk to.

Ben Parchem

Ben Parchem, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Favorite Food: Chicken Alfredo and anything potato
Favorite Color: Earth tones
Favorite Bands: Pentatonix, Tori Kelly, Jess Glynne, Beyonce, and MisterWives
Why I became a Peer Helper: As a third year student I understand the stressors and anxiety that come with working toward a college education, and I believe I have developed good strategies to cope with and overcome these hurdles. My passions have always strongly aligned with the brain and mental health; additionally my future goals include clinical psychology. The Peer Helper program offers me the opportunity to lend a helpful ear to students in order to assist them in managing their everyday difficulties inherent with academic goals and social health.

Brandon Schermitzler

Brandon Schermitzler, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Green Bay, WI
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Band/Singer: I listen to so much music, but my favorites are probably Ben Howard, Dermot Kennedy, Brett Dennen, James Bay, The Fray, and Oh Wonder.
Why you became a peer helper: I noticed way too many people feeling overwhelmed by stress during the first three semesters of my college career. I wanted to get more involved in the campus community to try to help students manage their stress before it becomes detrimental to their health, academics, and relationships. I am also very interested in going into a mental health related field in the future, so this is a great opportunity to practice the skills needed for such a career while also doing good for the community.

Molly Senser

Molly Senser, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Junior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Hopkins, MN
Favorite Food: Pomegranates
Favorite Color: Coral and Gold
Favorite Band/Singer: Too difficult to choose! I really like Broods, The Head and the Heart, Lana del Rey, Tall Heights, etc.
Why you became a peer helper: I became a peer helper so I could make personal contributions toward promoting mental health and wellness on campus. I know that having someone to talk to is beneficial in itself; I hope to help people feel supported during this stressful time in our lives. Also, I am pursuing a career in counseling, so I thought that this was an amazing opportunity to work on listening and helping skills.

Nina Thao

Nina Thao, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Sophomore
Major: Family Social Science
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN
Favorite Food: Steam rolls, Egg rolls, Cinnamon buns, every kind of pasta, and anything (everything) that is edible
Favorite Color: Every color!
Favorite Band/Singer: DNCE, Steelheart, Hands, Maroon 5, Jessie J, Miley Cyrus, JoJo, Adele, P!nk, and SOO much more
Why you became a peer helper: I believe that stress is one of many things everyone can relate to whether it's bad or good stress. I became a peer helper because I wanted to learn techniques of how to deal with stress in a positive manner. I also have a lot of passion to help others in need and I just simply enjoy listening and passing positive vibes. I hope to make an impact in peoples' lives someday and this is where I chose to start.

Abbie Van Handel

Abbie Van Handel, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Health and Wellness
Hometown: Appleton, WI
Favorite Food: Coffee (or anything caffeinated)
Favorite Color: Grey
Favorite Band: Kevin Garrett, George Ezra, Adele (it changes very often)
Why I became a Peer Helper: Stress is something all college students experience at one point in their academic careers and this should not prevent students from achieving their goals. Based on my own experience, additional emotional support from others has had a valuable and positive impact. I hope as a de-stress Peer Helper I can provide that support through listening and providing a safe space for others.

Salma Warsame

Salma Warsame, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Favorite Food: Lasagna, anything my mom makes, and anything spicy.
Favorite Color: Teal and Coral
Why I became a Peer Helper: I've experienced many stressors over the course of my college career. I knew that if I didn't manage my stress in a healthy and effective way, then the stressors would lead to a decline in my mental health. With that in mind, the topic of stress has always interested me and I've always wanted to help people overcome daily stressors, the same way that I was helped overcome some difficulties in my life.

Jiali Yu

Jiali Yu, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: First Year Graduate Student
Major: Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology
Hometown: Nanjing, China
Favorite Food: traditional Chinese food, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Korean food
Favorite Color: plum
Favorite Band/Singer: Carla Bruni, Leonard Cohen, Clementine
Why you became a peer helper: I want to become a peer helper because I am passionate to help students deal with various issues in their college years, and help them feel less stressful in general.

Coordinators

Alyssa Naef

Alyssa Naef, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Nursing
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Favorite Food: My mom's green bean casserole! But blueberry pancakes are delicious too!
Favorite Color: Dark grays and dark navies
Favorite Bands: This is one of the most difficult questions you could ask me, but I would say Alabama Shakes, Grizzly Bear, Foxygen, Modest Mouse, Bahamas, Soul Low, Bon Iver, Tennis, Coolshark, Cyberbully Mom Club, and of course the Beach Boys

Why I wanted to be a de-stress coordinator: As a current college student, I experience and witness the consequences of improper stress management that life brings at this age. The artful tactics of healthily dealing with both positive and negative stress excite and interest me, and they will be even more important to know in the future when I am a nurse working with tense or worried patients. As excellent practice now, I am thrilled to be helping educate members of the University community about these essential methods and the hundreds of resources that are available to help them look after themselves!

Ben Parchem

Ben Parchem, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Favorite food: Anything gluten-free that isn't flavor-free
Favorite color: Earth tones
Favorite band: Jess Glynne, Pentatonix, Tori Kelly, Beyonce, and Drake

Why I wanted to be a stress coordinator: After completing my first successful semester with de-stress, I was eager to gain a more influential role in the program. Finishing my undergraduate education at the U this year, I understand the stressors and anxiety that come with working toward a college degree, and I believe I have developed strong coping strategies to face these hurdles. My passions have always coincided with mental health and psychology, and working as a de-stress coordinator I am afforded the opportunity to lend a helpful ear to fellow peers while evoking change on stigma and student well-being.

Brian Ruedinger

Brian Ruedinger, destress@umn.edu
Year in School: Senior
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Two Rivers, WI
Favorite food: Chimichangas
Favorite color: Green
Favorite band: Halsey

Why I wanted to be a de-stress coordinator: I want there to be a resource on campus that students feel comfortable going to, since they may not feel their concerns are important enough to discuss with a psychologist. I think students need to be aware that mental health concerns impact a wide range of people and that the University cares about their well-being. I want to grow the de-stress group and inspire other universities to create similar organizations on their campuses.

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Contact informations for Boynton staff is available from the U of M directory's People Search website.

Peer Health Promotion Staff Bios

de-stress
Health Advocates–Greek HAs
Health Advocates–Residence Hall HAs
Health Advocates–Senior HAs
SHADE–Sexual health
SNAC–Student Nutrition Advocacy Collaborative


Boynton Health

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P: 612-625-8400 | F: 612-625-1434