Greek Students Educate their Chapters through GEAR Program

SARAH STOESZ | Staff Reporter

Students are training to become representatives for their Greek chapters to serve as a resource for individuals with health and wellness concerns.

Greek Educators, Advocates, and Resources, or GEAR, is a program where representatives from the Greek community educate their peers.

“GEAR reps are students who have volunteered to serve as peer helpers to students within their chapters and campus wide,” said Sarah Barnes Diaz, coordinator of health education and outreach programs. “They are students that have felt called to serve other students in that way and they receive some training that hopefully will help them be strong supports for other students on campus.”

Students apply to be GEAR representatives in the fall semester.  Chapter presidents and current representatives notify their chapters and help to gauge interest.

Interested students then sign up for a Peer Education class for the spring semester, where they receive training to become a representative, Diaz said.

GEAR representatives are educated about a variety of health and wellness issues in the Peer Education class.  They focus on issues commonly seen on campus, such as stress and anxiety, eating disorders and sexual assault, Diaz said.

“We try to educate the GEAR reps on these topics so they have a base line knowledge and some good factual information and try to give them the tools to be able to listen and help a friend,” she said.

Diaz said the job of a GEAR rep can be difficult, but is meant to be supportive.

“Sometimes a GEAR rep might notice behaviors that are concerning and address it in an individual way with a student that is supportive,” Diaz said.  “The main focus is letting GEAR reps know what additional resources are available on this campus for students.”

GEAR representatives are available as a resource to members of their chapter.  They reach out to their chapters in many ways, such as speaking in chapter meetings, posting newsletters on bathroom stalls and sending out emails on the chapter listserv, Diaz said.

Although it is difficult to evaluate the impact of GEAR, as it is based on personal interactions, representatives make efforts to make themselves available and bring information back to their chapters, said Becky Druetzler, director of Greek Life.

Druetzler said Sigma Nu fraternity has taken their involvement with GEAR up a level.

“(Sigma Nu) is getting enough people to have a significant core group of people who have been through the GEAR program, and they are actually setting aside designated hours during the week where they are available and people can come and find them,” Druetzler said. “They are really making it easy for people to find them to start conversations.  They have kept up with that all semester.”

There are 52 GEAR representatives.  Every chapter has at least one representative, Druetzler said.

Annie Thorndyke said she decided to become a GEAR representative for Kappa Alpha Theta because she wanted be a resource for her sisters.

“I wanted to be someone that the girls could share their feelings with in a non-judgmental zone,” Thorndyke said. “I also want to raise awareness about certain touchy issues that go on around campus and that might make people feel uncomfortable and to promote subjects that people don’t always want to talk about.”