Reyna Sparks is a senior at Illinois State University and is the president of the Student Wellness Ambassador Team (SWAT), a student organization under the advisement of Health Promotion and Wellness. SWAT focuses on promoting healthy behaviors and lifestyles to students on campus through a various outreach programs, such as educational workshops, special projects, and staffing the G Spot portable wellness gazebo.
Sparks joined SWAT her sophomore year. Asking Sparks why she chose to become a SWAT team member she noted, “I liked what SWAT represented and it aligned with my academic focus of Community Health Promotion. I also found the team to be welcoming and we shared similar interests and passions.” Sparks also added, “The more I participated, the more I loved what I was doing. Like anything, what you put into it is what you get out of it.”
Beyond finding a group of people Sparks resonated with where friendships have been built over time, Sparks spoke about the developmental experience it has given her, “SWAT pulled me out of being an introvert and made me see skills within myself that I didn’t know I had. I’ve also gained knowledge, leadership skills, and learned how to speak confidently about what can be uncomfortable but important topics to discuss. Giving my friendship to others and providing a safe environment for students is important to me. It can make a positive difference in their world.”
Sparks’ SWAT role keeps her busy. Sparks shared, “I spend time planning, participating in volunteer and social events, running our executive meetings, and making sure we are doing things that are congruent with our mission. I also check in on team members and look for ways I can be more supportive to the team.”
Every role comes with challenges and Sparks indicates hers is no exception, “Finding the right people to fit the job is important, otherwise we can experience more attrition. There are many roles SWAT members can do that can fit with their schedule or who they are. Overall, while we can have fun doing what we do, it’s also important people are serious about the work they commit to, which ultimately helps the organization thrive and the students we serve. Another challenge can be training people who want to work the G Spot. Members have to learn and internalize appropriateness of language and delivery of information. It’s also critical they are inclusive in their approach.”
Sparks has displayed a servant leadership approach to her role in SWAT and has gained many benefits she can carry into her future. Members of SWAT and the student population they serve are the beneficiaries of Sparks’ commitment. Sparks’ words of wisdom are “Put yourself out there!” It was through Sparks’ decision to put herself out there that shaped her academic focus, who she is today, and what she will bring to the world tomorrow!