Wingate University students will put their newfound knowledge to work this week to help create a healthier community. The University’s Mental Health and Wellness Event, set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at East Elementary School, is the first of two mobile health fairs designed to make services more accessible to local families while giving students a chance to take what they’ve learned in the classroom out into the field. Attendees at the event can be screened for depression, have their blood pressure checked and take advantage of a range of other services at booths manned by Wingate health sciences students and representatives from local organizations. The University’s Wellness Van, donated to Wingate in 2018 and supported by BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina, will be featured.

“When we say Wingate is a laboratory of difference making, this is exactly what we’re talking about: aligning the talents and expertise of our faculty, staff and students with the needs in our community, while at the same time creating opportunities for academic pursuits,” said Catherine Wright, director of Wingate’s new Collaborative for the Common Good. “We are leveraging so many talents on campus and working alongside our community partners, who are eager to work together and are passionate about health care.” She said the University based plans for the upcoming event on feedback from its Nov. 16 Health and Wellness Fair, which drew 700 people to Monroe Middle School. “One of the things we learned from surveys at that event is that families are most comfortable receiving services at schools, places where they routinely already go,” Wright said. “We also learned that mental health and wellness was a primary need.” At Thursday’s event, Wingate occupational therapy students will offer self-esteem-building activities. Physical therapy students will address sleep health, and future physician assistants will offer depression education and screenings.

Pharmacy students will focus their efforts on opioid education and will hand out bottles of NarcX, a product used to dispose of unused or outdated medications. The free samples are provided by NarcX. Nursing majors will perform vision screenings and blood-pressure checks and also help guests make their own stress balls. Teaching techniques for managing emotions will be the role of psychology majors. Additionally, Wingate’s Campus Recreation staff will offer yoga and Zumba classes, and the Dub-U Stomp and Shake Club will perform. Guests at the event will also be able to get tips on healthy eating from the NC Campus Compact HungerCorps and receive free food from Heart for Monroe. The Monroe Police Department will share safety information, and Bridge to Recovery will address addiction treatment options. Also sharing information will be the N.C. Geriatric Adult Mental Health Specialty Team and the Union County Department of Human Services. Heart for Monroe will operate a clothes closet during the fair, and Therapy Dogs International will bring a certified therapy dog to the East Elementary media center. Union County Public Schools will showcase its Say Something App reporting system, and Common Heart will offer literacy support. Fifth-graders from the East Elementary leadership team will serve as hosts for Thursday’s event. Matt Lasher, principal of East Elementary, expects the fair to provide “opportunities for our community that they would have otherwise not had.” He said it will allow his school to continue to grow its relationship with Wingate University and Heart for Monroe and to help steer students toward potential health science careers. “This is a great opportunity for us to continue to build momentum around our move in the direction of becoming a Health Science Academy to vertically align with our middle school, high school, and local community colleges and universities,” Lasher said. East Elementary is located at 515 Elizabeth Ave., Monroe. On the heels of the East Elementary event, the University is planning a health fair for Feb. 3 at Wingate Elementary, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Heart Health and Wellness will be the theme.
by Luanne Williams


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