SHPRC revives image with increased outreach

Feb. 14, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

It’s just a typical Tuesday afternoon at the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center (SHPRC), as Milana Baker ’14 greets two visitors using up their quarterly $3 credit for condoms and rings up their purchases.

Sitting cross-legged on a swivel chair in the SHPRC’s office on the second floor of Vaden Health Center, Baker, the center’s projects consultant, explains that it wasn’t always this way – the office used to be much quieter. But she likes the change of pace.

Structuring the organization

Since its founding in the mid-’90s, the student-led organization has grappled with increasing students’ knowledge about the center and spreading awareness about sexual health.

“The institution is pretty old, so it can get pretty complacent,” Baker said.

Two years ago, Sophi Newman ’13, SHRPC’s director in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, decided to break the stagnancy – starting with the condoms.

According to Newman, the program initially struggled with a supply problem. SHPRC found itself backlogged on orders and putting out an inconsistent product line.

“We were constantly chasing after ourselves, always out of stock,” she said. “On a good day we might have what you wanted, but we were always running out.”

They eventually switched to a more reliable and current condom supplier, Global Protection.

Courtesy Sean Christofferson
Courtesy Sean Christofferson

With supply no longer a problem, Newman decided last year to overhaul the organization’s image. Together with Baker and another peer counselor, Newman helped redesign the center, turning it from that “random place with a lot of condoms” into a center that was more welcoming with the intention that students would visit frequently, according to Baker.

“You used to come in and it didn’t feel professional. It didn’t feel safe,” Newman said. “Because we’re providing people information and providing items that are related to personal health, I thought it was critical that we maintain an aesthetic that was very professional.”

A couch now sits near the counselor’s desk, encouraging easy conversation, and assorted condoms now sit in clear glass jars, replacing cheap, plastic ones.

A new directorship

As a four-year veteran counselor, Baker has seen the SHPRC increase the number of events it hosts in the last two years. Each of the 28 peer counselors is required to participate in at least one major event each quarter, and many have delivered information sessions in dorms and community centers or tabled at White Plaza or campus-wide events, like Full Moon on the Quad.

To further increase its accessibility to students, SHPRC has hosted tours of the center in addition to offering online and over-the-phone options for students seeking counseling. The center expanded its annual budget to $20,250 to accommodate the added efforts.

Even so, this year’s directors – Baker, Blake Montgomery ’14 and Laetitia Walendom ’15 – have sought to break new ground rather than simply extending previously established measures. Efforts to that end include a lecture series on kink developed in conjunction with Student Activities and Leadership, with the most recent event – which focused on polyamory – drawing around 30 students.

The directors’ efforts have recently focused, however, on organizing this spring’s Sex Week. The series, which is meant to spread awareness about sexual health and sexuality, will feature events each day of the week. Though SHPRC has not finalized any plans, the directors said that they anticipate screenings, panelists and a dance workshop in White Plaza.

“After working for [SHPRC] for so long and working so hard, it would be nice to leave this legacy,” Baker said.

Contact Vanessa Ochavillo at vochavillo ‘at’

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