When prospective students visit Penn State, campus tour guides usually describe the plethora of clubs and organizations available. If for some reason there’s no clubs that fit your personality, you can create your own, they say. So when a group of students hoping to make a difference in public health weren’t satisfied with their options, they did just that — start their own club.
The Student Health Active Recruitment and Empowerment (SHARE) club aims to match students with nonprofits in the area to help them develop a relationship with professionals and community leaders. In general, the club hopes to connect students with health promotion projects that they are passionate about.
“It started out with our own association through AIDS Resource, which is a local nonprofit. Now, we’re focused on expanding onto campus to allow students to have access to Penn State resources,” said SHARE President Matthew Downing.
In order to take advantage of some of the advertising resources on campus to connect students with nonprofits, the group had to become an official club. “We saw from the student perspective that it’s hard for these nonprofits (who have no university affiliation) to connect with students because they’re not allowed to do things like set up a table in the HUB or put flyers in mailboxes,” said Downing.
Instead of simply researching and volunteering for the nonprofits on their own, SHARE members are looking to create a legacy and make the process easier for future Penn Staters. They also want to help out local organizations which may find it difficult to connect with willing undergraduates. “For local nonprofits, there aren’t many outlets they can use on campus to promote themselves. So by partnering with them we also give these organizations the ability to help themselves. That’s another huge reason why we turned our group into an official club,” said Secretary Alexis Amico.
At this point, the group has 19 members — 10 of which are extremely active in the club. Right now, members are still in the process of recruiting and finding nonprofit organizations to match with. The club was approved about a month ago and their first meeting was right before spring break, so they haven’t had a chance to advertise at a career fair yet. Currently, the members are excited to start getting the word out to the student body.
As soon as they determined that becoming an official club would help with their mission, the executive members of the club began the process, which took a surprisingly long time. In order to register as an official club at Penn State, they had to write up a constitution, set positions, find a room for meetings, recruit members (you need at least 10 people to register), get a student bank account, and begin hosting meetings. “It was definitely more time consuming then we thought it would be — it took nearly a whole semester to get the organization started. But now that we did we have access to so many resources that the Activities Office provides, which is great,” said Downing.
In terms of money, the club currently isn’t even charging a membership fee. This is because for the most part, the goal of the club is to help nonprofits spread the information they already have available. For example, the AIDS Resource has condoms that they give the club to hand out. Up until now, they didn’t really have an avenue to get those resources to students.
To recruit more members, they started sending blast emails out to BBH majors and students enrolled in women’s health classes — in other words, students who would typically have an interest in the message their club promotes. However, they insist that students don’t need any type of experience to join and they don’t necessarily need to be health or pre-med majors. Even though their goal is to help people with community involvement with a health-specific focus, everyone is welcome.
“I think this club is very beneficial to me personally because a lot of public health work is trying to figure out how to market your services to people and get information out there to people. Professionals usually need to address health needs in a way that doesn’t necessarily use medicine,” said Amico.
Although there are similar positions available through UHS, SHARE allows students to act as peer educators without going through an application and training process. “With us, you don’t need to go through all that work beforehand,” Amico said. “We think that if you want something done, you should just go for it yourself.”