By Ryan Girves
For more than 15 years, Brown-Forman Corp. has supported the wellness of University of Kentucky students, funding alcohol awareness initiatives and holistic wellness programs that teach students how to live healthfully and responsibly while on campus and in the community.
Since 2002, Brown-Forman has contributed $1.5 million to UK, part of which sponsors the Student Wellness Center's Student Wellness Ambassadors. This group provides students quality, research-based information to help students improve their social, physical, emotional, financial, intellectual and environmental health through programs on stress reduction, drug and alcohol intervention and prevention and general well-being.
In a 2015 study done by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, research found that between 2009 and 2015, the number of students visiting college counseling centers nationally increased by 30 percent, while enrollment grew by less than 6 percent. With the increase in demand for counselors and information, these highly motivated, well-trained Student Wellness Ambassadors are able to support the university staff by connecting students to campus wellness resources.
"One of the larger initiatives SWA has been working on this year is encouraging their peers and other students to visit wellkentucky.org. Since the start of the school year we have had over 5,000 visits to the site," said Courtney Hoffman, program coordinator for the SWA, which just started its eighth year as an organization on campus. "As the SWA program continues to grow and develop, our hope is that their impact increases as well."
Through programs like the SWA, the Wellness Center is taking huge leaps forward in providing ample support to students who want to educate themselves on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. Brown-Forman's gifts also helped create a Recovery Living Learning Community in 2017 for students recovering from addition. The community provides a supportive, substance-free environment for students and wellness programming to further students' recovery.
Brown-Forman's support has also helped the Wellness Center attract additional funding for its initiatives, which Drew Smith, assistant provost for student health and wellness, said made UK a leader in wellness programming and a better place for students to live and learn.
One of 12 SWA on campus, Karmen Loehr, a biology sophomore, is a first-year SWA who said she knows the group's work is making a real difference.
"It’s great to hear that I’ve given students new information that could possibly benefit their health and wellness," Loehr said. "Most of all, though, I enjoy our time out on campus to just give a friendly smile. While wearing a Student Wellness Ambassador shirt or jacket, I am always extra friendly and open because I know that students will recognize our organization and remember that we are here for them as friends too, not just event workers."
Students who who would like to join or learn more about the SWA program can contact Courtney Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article originally appeared September 24, 2018 in UK NOW.