Emerson students learn how to ‘Stay Fresh’ all year round

Students+at+Fresh+Check+Day+engage+with+staff+at+the+suicide+prevention+booth+organized+by+the+Wellness+Center+and+Student+Accessibility+Services.

Photo: Ashlyn Wang

Students at Fresh Check Day engage with staff at the suicide prevention booth organized by the Wellness Center and Student Accessibility Services.

By Nia Harmon

Inside The Loft, Emerson community members gathered for Fresh Check Day, a mental health and suicide prevention initiative started by the Jordan Porco Foundation that connects mental health organizations and resources with the student body. 

At Fresh Check Events, students can eat, interact with peers, and participate in crafts all while learning about the mental health and support organizations on their college campuses.

COVID-19 restrictions halted the in-person event in 2020 and 2021. The event’s lead planner, Associate Director of Wellness and Health Promotion Laura Owen, was glad for it to be back. Owen said Fresh Check Day seeks to provide a space for students to take time away from academics.

“We at least wanted to get students checking in with their mental health, and then also having a little bit of fun and creativity, and hopefully winning some prizes and hanging out together,” said Owen.

Emerson students were welcomed into The Loft with upbeat music, snacks, drinks, and different booths with activities. These booths provided information about how specific organizations and offices could aid students in overcoming rough times in their college careers. 

Director of Financial Wellness, Education, and Communication Carol Smolinsky joined the Fresh Check planning committee in 2016. Smolinsky believes the event is especially beneficial for students still learning to navigate the topic of mental health.

“Fresh Check Day is one of those opportunities where you can put a positive spin on something that a lot of people are still worried about there being stigma if they talk about it out loud,” Smolinsky said. 

In a study done by Cornell Health, research shows that taking breaks during studying increases productivity and focus. Fresh Check Day’s afternoon event was able to serve as a midday break during the busy season. 

“Midterms have been kind of stressful, so I was looking for an outlet to relax and vibe within the larger Emerson community,” said freshman writing, literature, and publishing major Cheyenne Kminek. “Being in a positive environment where there’s activities, creative crafts, and people who are there to talk to you is really helpful to take a nice step back from everything going on.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges regarding students’ ability to connect with their peers. However, Fresh Check Day helped freshman creative writing major Ensor Stull make up for lost time.

“I had COVID when the org fair happened, so I haven’t done many school activities. This is a good opportunity for that,” said Stull. “I’m meeting new people and that’s what my favorite part of this whole experience is, just talking to new people.”

Aside from gathering resources for themselves, those who attended had the chance to leave words of encouragement for a fellow peer. At the Office of Intercultural Affairs booth, students could write letters of encouragement to those considering coming out, and design bracelets with positive affirmations.

Kasey Armstrong, a first year visual media arts major, took part in this bracelet-making. Her new keepsake serves as a reminder that her mental health and wellbeing are a top priority.

“Mental health is more important than anything in college you’ll ever learn,” Armstrong said. “There are times where I do want my alone time and do want to talk to somebody, which is when I look to the Wellness Center to see what’s up and they help me out.”

While some students have been able to manage their transition to college life, this event still served as an educational opportunity for potential future times of need.

“It’s been a pretty good transition,” said first year Eve Levy. “But if there was something that I needed help with, I would know where to go.”

As the school year gets busier, Owen encouraged students to remember that they were not alone, and that help is readily available. 

“We really do care about making sure your health is coming first and that there’s resources for you to be a successful student, athlete, performer, or whatever you want to be,” said Owen. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, click here for more on-campus resources. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 988.