For the third year in a row, Illinois State University is participating in Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. On this special day, a gift to Health Promotion and Wellness will provide personal and professional development opportunities for peer educators who are members of the Student Wellness Ambassador Team (SWAT). Peer education has been a part of Illinois State University since 1994, with approximately 700 SWAT alumni.

SWAT is a registered student organization that strives to promote health behaviors and lifestyles to Illinois State University and the community through a variety of programs and services. Peer educators volunteer their time to serve as a vital resource for their fellow students. SWAT members receive continuous training to make sure they are educated on campus resources and health topics in order to deliver workshops and staff the mobile wellness gazebo that travels around campus. During the 2015, 2016 school year the gazebo had more than 14,000 student visits.

Additional development opportunities are available to SWAT members by attending the regional or national BACCHUS conference and becoming a certified peer educator. While both are amazing ways for students to further their education beyond the classroom, participation can be limited due to costs. Your gift to Health Promotion and Wellness on Giving Tuesday will help support Student Wellness Ambassador Team members’ ability to attend the BACCHUS conferences and/or become a certified peer educator.

We think SWAT is worth of a Giving Tuesday gift, but don’t take our word for it. Here are what SWAT and alumni have to say about this unique opportunity.


Mary Geers Howard, ‘07

“Peer education gave me a safe place to grow as an individual. My personality was able to shine within the group and that in turn bled into my personal life. I became a more confident person. Professionally, I became confident in my public speaking abilities. Since I spent time presenting on health topics, I was able to practice my public speaking which is something you need to be comfortable with as a teacher!”


Jenn Jones

Jenn Jones, BS ’03, MSEd ‘05

“Being a peer educator in college allowed me to meet other students who shared the same interests and passions, some of which became very close friends. It also gave me a chance to become more comfortable speaking in front of larger groups, which has been invaluable in my professional success. The experience as the peer education graduate assistant paved the way for my career in higher education administration by giving me the opportunities to lead programming, supervise student workers, and strategically plan outreach efforts. Finally, peer education helped me grow as a human by being in a supportive environment, in which I could challenge both my own perceptions regarding health, sex, relationships, and drugs; and challenge other people in our group to see other perspectives.”


Nicole SWAT Gazebo

Nicole Jones, BS ’16

“Through SWAT I found myself and discovered various dimensions of not only who I wish to become but the impact I want to have through my work. During my time in SWAT I was able to immerse myself in learning about the many facets of health, how to communicate with others through outreach, different health behaviors, and social justice issues to name just a few topics that scratch the surface of what SWAT members are trained in. However when I look back at my experience I think about how SWAT made me genuinely want to be a good person and influence the world in the most positive of ways. This organization not only became the reason why I am a wealth of health promotion information and a heart burning for advocacy, but it gave me the platform to share that knowledge in the best way so that others could benefit. Before joining SWAT I had so many ideas and thoughts but no serious driving force behind them. I can thank the mission of SWAT, the members of SWAT, and the advisors/mentors of SWAT for giving me the ability to feel comfortable in my truths, determination, and value of my thoughts and ideas.

After, having the opportunity through SWAT to attend the annual BACCHUS conference in November of 2013, I was opened to so many new possibilities for my future. After returning from the conference I wanted to step up my participation within the organization by running for a position on the executive board. I was voted in as the Campus Relations Coordinator, and till this day I believe obtaining that position gave me so much because I was able to make an impact on the campus community and take ownership of my actions through this leadership position. By being able to attend the BACCHUS conference I was able to understand ideas and initiatives that were occurring at other colleges around the nation and bring the back to the Illinois State University campus to adapt to our community of college students. Throughout the three years I served on the board, I was able to implement three programs focused on Spring Break Safety, Getting Yourself Tested (GYT), and Just for the Health of it (Health Resource Fair). The reach of these programs extended through the college campus as well as aided in helping people understand the true mission and values of SWAT and what we do as an organization.”


Lisa Difatta SWAT

Lisa Difatta, BS ‘16

“Before I joined SWAT, I was a new transfer student and I didn’t know any of my peers. I was too timid to even talk to anyone in my classes. I was reluctant to join, but I knew it would help me grow as time went on. A few weeks later I was able to go to my first BACCHUS conference and my life was completely changed. I had met genuine people and had developed life-long friendships in just one weekend. From then on I blossomed as a person. Instead of being quiet in my classes, I was able to start conversations with the people around me and contribute in class discussions. I was given an opportunity to interact with my peers almost every day through volunteering at the GSpot, and I genuinely felt like I belonged. By the end of my first semester in SWAT, I could confidently say that I loved being a student at Illinois State University and that continues to this day.”



Alexandra Szajowksi, BS ‘14 on right with other SWAT members

“Through SWAT, I was able to take a deeper look into my own life to seek balance through the seven dimensions of wellness. Being in-tune with myself helped me to change and grow emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, spiritually, and professionally. After attending BACCHUS/Certified Peer-Education training, my eyes were opened up to the world of peer education on a grander scale. The creativity each school group brought left a lasting impression that SWAT was not alone in spreading and promoting health education. It helped me gain more of a professional view of SWAT & helped me to take my role as president more seriously. It was great to travel with my fellow peer-educators who I both looked up to & who looked up to me. I gained an invaluable amount of information & was so happy to bring back the experiences/new ideas to SWAT.”


Bianca Kevin SWAT

Bianca Gerardi Pietro, BS ’14 and Keven Pietro, BS ’10, MS ‘12

“SWAT helped us understand others who represent all different demographics. This continued to help us develop professionally in our careers, for we work with all different people, educating one another. Academically, it gave us the privilege to work with others who were in similar classes and bounce off study ideas. Personally, we found one another. We were able to see the differences and the similarities in our lives. We were able to enjoy our qualities of same interest and experience new adventures and appreciate the differences. We are now together for almost seven years, married, and have a daughter who we are raising to be accepting of all people and to appreciate differences.”