Peers Advocating Wellness for Students (PAWS) is a student-run campus group that focuses on peer health education.
PAWS puts on campus initiatives like Red Cup Culture, the Over It campaign, Safe Spring Break and Stress Less Week.
While PAWS is student-run, it seems their greatest asset may in fact be in their faculty adviser, Sarah Barnes.
Barnes was recently honored as an Outstanding Adviser at the National Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students Health Education conference held in Indianapolis two weeks ago.
Barnes was nominated by PAWS president, senior Kassandra Adams, and was honored for her outstanding service to Butler’s campus and for her inspirational leadership of PAWS.
In her nomination letter, Adams wrote, “[Barnes] is the epitome of an outstanding adviser, which is evident through her role model qualities, unique talents, commitment to PAWS and the fact that she is a leader in health in safety at Butler University.”
Adams said Barnes often works late nights and always puts the needs of her students first.
“She brings so many unique talents to PAWS that it is hard to narrow it down to just a few,” Adams said. “She is a brilliant and gifted woman in every aspect of her life and PAWS is lucky to have her input and instruction.
“[Barnes] is an expert communicator and is able to give negative feedback in such a positive way so that it is extremely constructive. She works with students to turn their weaknesses into their strengths.”
Barnes said when she learned she had been nominated for outstanding adviser by Adams, she was honored but laughed it off, never expecting to actually win the award.
“You know, it’s a national conference. I really didn’t think much more about it,” Barnes said. “So when it was announced [that I won], I was really touched and proud.”
Barnes said what she is most proud of is the work done by PAWS students on campus.
“A lot of the things she included in the nomination letter were things that she listed as accomplishments of mine, but I wouldn’t be able to do them without the great students we have in PAWS,” she said.
Barnes said she was surprised because in her line of work, there is typically little recognition.
Often times, she said she might hear from students a couple of years after they’ve graduated.
“It’s not very often that you receive that kind of thanks immediately while the students are still here on campus,” she said.
Together, Barnes and Adams, along with the rest of PAWS, work to educate Butler’s campus and to get students talking openly about wellness issues.
“I think the coolest part of my job is just working with students who want to make a positive change on Butler’s campus and who are willing to kind of stick there necks out there to do that. They are willing to talk about things that are hard to talk about or things that a lot of students would rather not think about,” Barnes said.
PAWS has had many successful campaigns, one being its Red Cup Culture campaign that was started here on campus. The campaign was presented by PAWS members to schools across the nation at the BACCHUS Health Education Conference.
“Red Cup Culture is a distinctly personal program that is able to reach a lot of students,” Adams said. “We presented to a room of about 45 students and faculty members from across the nation and received great reviews.
“The presentation could not have gone any better.”
Barnes said she would like to see PAWS continue to be a successful and visible group on campus. She said she feels PAWS has developed a solid foundation and she hopes that as new wellness issues come up, such as the increasing prescription drug abuse problem many college campuses are facing, that PAWS will find creative and inspiring ways to address them.
Senior Cathryn Niehaus, PAWS secretary, said that any success PAWS has achieved and may potentially achieve in the future must all be credited back to Barnes.
“I don’t think PAWS would be PAWS without her,” Niehaus said. “We would be a disheveled mob of students wandering aimlessly about, attempting to wrap our heads around peer education topics to no avail. Sarah Barnes is an integral part of PAWS and we really appreciate all of her hard work and guidance.”
For students interested in learning more about PAWS, the group meets every Monday at 6 p.m. in HRC 154.