For Taylor Wesley, her time spent at Auburn was not that of a typical college student. Not only was she crowned Miss Homecoming in 2015, but she also helped bring a nationally renowned intervention program to Auburn’s campus.
Wesley, an Atlanta native, graduated from Auburn this past December with a B.A. in communication along with a minor in psychology. This degree, along with her passion for public speaking and the human mind served as a stepping-stone for what she would later accomplish in her college years.
When Wesley was nominated for Miss Homecoming, there was no question about what her platform would be centered on. She opened up about how she was a victim of mental illness toward the beginning of her college career but eventually took the necessary action to reach out and get help. Her platform for homecoming week was “Spread Wellness with Wesley” which focused on spreading mental health awareness and opening the dialogue to it on Auburn’s campus.
"Through running for Miss Homecoming, I had the opportunity to share my story with the student body in order to start a chain reaction of mental health awareness.”
What most people aren’t aware of is the severity of its prevalence. Whether it be an eating disorder, depression, anxiety or substance abuse, statistics show 1 in 4 Auburn students struggle with mental illness. Through her campaign, Wesley hoped to take out the ‘I” in mental illness and replace it with “we” to create mental wellness.
“Taylor Wesley’s story is a wonderful picture of the Auburn family and what it means to be a member of that family. Through Taylor’s journey, she demonstrated resiliency and a willingness to help others. It is because of these characteristics Auburn University is one step closer to helping all students who are in recovery. Taylor’s ability to simply speak up and share her story will have an impact on Auburn students for years to come”, says Director of Development for the Division of Student Affairs, Kurt Sasser.
After being crowned Miss Homecoming, Wesley wasn’t done making her mark on Auburn’s campus. As Health and Wellness Director for SGA, Taylor had the opportunity to attend a training program for the Green Dot program this past summer.
The WE dot Auburn campaign is an initiative by The Green Dot Bystander Intervention program, based on the violence prevention strategy that in order to prevent, one must engage. The acts of the bystander are half the battle in preventing hostile situations from occurring. The idea behind the campaign is fighting acts of violence, referred to as “Red Dots” with proactive behavior, referred to as “Green Dots”.
"Green Dot is a program that SGA has been very supportive of since it came to Auburn's campus. I had the honor of working with it through our Student Senate, where I passed a resolution in support of the program prior to its founding.
Once it got started, I got Taylor who was serving as the Director of Health & Wellness at the time to get certified as a Green Dot overview speaker and she got really invested in the program and helped spread that message to over 6,000 students in its first year. Both she and I, as well as many others in SGA feel very strongly about the merits of Green Dot and about curbing the issue of interpersonal violence and sexual assault on Auburn's campus and I think we've seen some big changes and success in this area over the past year and a half", says senior in Political Science, Trey Fields who was a very involved member in bringing the program to campus.
Throughout the week-long training event, Wesley along with other Auburn faculty and staff became certified Green Dot instructors as an effort to continue spreading this knowledge, as well as preventing all forms of sexual assault from happening on campus.
“My main goal is to help the Green Dot campaign for Auburn called “WE dot Auburn” through raising awareness for violence prevention and also informing students about available training sessions throughout the school year… by working together as a community and as bystanders we could help reduce the chances of this occurring. “
Through Taylor's time involved in Health and Wellness, she has developed many life-long relationships. Eric Smith, The Director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services has not only been her boss, but has also served as one of her mentors through her journey.
"Taylor Wesley did more for mental health, violence prevention and substance use issues on our campus then I think she will ever fully realize. From the moment she sat down in our office and talked about the need to change things I knew we were on the right track. And we certainly did. Regarding We.Auburn specifically I think having her not only be part of the implementation, but truly ”buy” into all facets of the program have contributed to it’s success", says Smith.
If you want to help make a difference on Auburn’s campus regarding sexual violence, visit the Health Promotion and Wellness Services Office in the Student Center to sign up for a green dot training program, or visit their website to learn more about the initiative itself.
Today, Wesley is still doing her part to “Spread Wellness with Wesley” back in her hometown of Atlanta. She currently works for a staffing firm but has continued public speaking on the topics of mental health and recovery.
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