Denison University’s 178th Commencement took place on Saturday, May 18. Watch the ceremony in its entirety including commencement keynote speaker Jennifer Garner ’94.
With final exams nearing, students enjoyed a clear blue day outside, gathering to celebrate Fresh Check Day, a signature program of The Jordan Porco Foundation, which specializes in promoting mental health awareness and coping strategies, as well as focusing on suicide prevention on college campuses. This event encouraged students to engage in an open dialogue about mental health awareness on campus, as well as how mental health could be elevated on a national and global scale.
Denison’s Fresh Check Day featured many booths that students visited, each with a different activity or purpose. Heather Borland, Denison’s Wellness Coordinator, described the booths as “the heart of Fresh Check Day,” continuing “We wanted to strive to engage students through interactive activities as opposed to passive educational tabling.” One such example was the Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center (CLIC) booth that prompted students to make tissue paper flowers for a friend—attaching a note of kindness. Similarly, while serving hotdogs, Campus Safety staff provided students with the opportunity to write a thank you note to someone on campus. These booths, while fun, still gave students the chance to learn valuable information. Booths staffed by the Knowlton Center for Career Exploration and Whisler Center for Student Wellness highlighted the importance of staying healthy, planning ahead, and managing stress. The Open House, Denis on’s Center for Religious & Spiritual Life, welcomed students to a craft table, directing their attention to how important it is to love their spirituality and individuality.
Many student organizations also contributed to educating their peers at the event. DASH (Denison Advocates for Sexual Health) created a space for students to reject sexual stigmas by writing down their “elephants in the room” on paper (questions and comments regarding sexual wellness). Another booth—YOUnique—invited students to write down their insecurities and throw them in the trash. Another student organization, Outlook, focused on embracing your own identity. With eye-catching titles and colorful displays, all booths conveyed messages around the importance of self and self-care.
Though the information was conveyed through a series of fun activities, the event focused on important facts and figures of mental health and suicide prevention and strategies that would give Denisonians a more knowledgeable perspective on how to approach helping someone who may need it most. One mandatory booth shared the national statistic that 1 in 10 college students contemplates suicide—which leaves 9 others to help. Students then signed a pledge to help others who may be struggling. This booth promoted what it means to have awareness and exercise your power to help whenever it’s needed.
Whether students were learning about key mental health issues or participating in activities to reduce their own current stress levels, the event covered a wide-variety of serious topics in a fun way. Brooke Hubbard, the 2017-2018 Active Minds President, believes that this event promoted a growth of mental health awareness and unity on campus, stating:
“Fresh Check Day was one of the largest events that our chapter of Active Minds has ever co-sponsored, and I think both the Jordan Porco Foundation (through which FCD was established) and Active Minds share very similar messages, primarily that you are not alone, that mental health issues and mental illness affect more people in your community than you might think, and that there are so many resources and people on Denison’s campus that are willing, and want, to help you.”
Given the number of students spending the afternoon engaged in conversations about mental health and participating in activities to reduce current stress levels (crafts, gratitude exercises, etc.), Fresh Check Day was a huge success.