Wellness Peer Educator Program Promotes Stress-Free Student Life on Campus

Olivia Bourque ’24 has been a part of the Merrimack College group for four years.
Headshot of Olivia Bourque ’24 next to the Merrimack College logo.
This spring, Olivia Bourque ’24 is expected to graduate with a bachelor's degree in nursing.

As a wellness peer educator, Olivia Bourque ’24 said she believes strongly in community and support, and she feels it on Merrimack College’s campus.

“I did not like Merrimack the first time that I toured it,” she admitted with a laugh. “I had a friend who was going – he wanted me to go to Admitted Student Day with him. I went and toured the nursing program and I absolutely loved it. I saw the building and all the services they provided. It just felt like a very open and supportive community.”

As a first-year nursing major in 2020, Bourque had to navigate life through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I started at Merrimack I had a really hard time,” she said. “At the time, I was meeting a lot of people and starting having conversations around mental health.”

These conversations eventually led her to Merrimack’s Wellness Peer Educator program. Bourque has participated in the group all four years she has been at Merrimack, making her the longest-serving member.

“When I started as a freshman, it was a really small group of students that wanted to promote mental health and wellness,” she recalled. “We put on programs that can help destress the community, start the conversation (on mental health) and get people involved.”

Bourque was only one of six members at the time she joined. In the beginning, she said, it was difficult for the group to get their goals met and establish a broad outreach to the Merrimack community. But, with determination, the group continued to grow each year. There are now nearly 25 members to date.

“Watching the program grow has been so cool to see,” she said. “I never thought it would grow into this beautiful thing.”

Every Thursday, from 7 to 9 p.m., one group member plans and hosts a mental health and self-care event for students. Last fall, Bourque presented “Start Your Year Off Strong,” where she handed out free office supplies to students along with little gifts to help reduce stress, such as camomile tea.

“Recently, (member) Alex Gajewski (’25) handed out little mirrors for people to write positive affirmations and body positivity messages on,” Bourque explained. The exercise, she continued, aimed to teach students self-compassion “whenever they look in the mirror.”

Although she’s graduating this spring, Bourque is still working to keep the Wellness Peer Educator program growing.

“We’re hoping for a space for the wellness peers and the whole Merrimack community just to hang out,” she explained. “We want a safe, open area for students to have any conversation and have wellness peers there as a resource.”

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