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“Blaze the Ballot” turns into “coping with COVID”

On Nov. 5, the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion held a Brave Space Dialogue program event for students to speak about the election, which turned into a conversation about COVID-19.
According to Sara Jones, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, the initial purpose of the event was to provide an outlet for students to express their feelings while waiting for the election results.
“However, the questions asked to facilitate the discussion allowed students to speak their various stressors and issues, and allowed them to be present for one another and share coping mechanisms,” Jones said.
One of the topics discussed was the challenges students are having. These challenges included finding motivation and keeping a positive mindset.
Students at the event discussed the feeling of being physically and emotionally drained.
Students discussed the feeling of social unrest, a lack of empathy and isolation. Some found that isolation becomes harder when it is forced upon students to be alone with themselves.
Everything turned upside down very quickly once the pandemic hit, according to students. Meditation, journaling and prayer are activities students found helpful during this time.
Meditation is important because feelings and thoughts are not facts, Jones said during the event.
Students at the event said they wish others would consider COVID-19 as real and follow Center of Disease Control guidelines. Students also wished others would listen, research and be empathetic towards others.
Students believe opportunities from an event like this is great to share their thoughts in a safe space.
According to Jones, this program’s purpose is to provide a safe space for students to have difficult conversations on issues of concern. The topics of the conversations are suggestions made by students.
“It is then my responsibility to create an environment and bring guests who can serve as the authority on the topic to engage in a meaningful dialogue that provides various perspectives,” Jones said.
According to the VSU website, “The history behind the term safe space describes the necessity of different types of environments that students feel physically, emotionally, and psychologically safe and secure. Brave Space Dialogue is the next level of engagement; to draw attention to various issues students encounter within the campus community by constructive conversation.”
It is important for students to have these conversations to see different perspectives and express their own views to be heard, Jones said.
“These spaces are important because of the opportunity it gives voice,” Dr. Zduy Chu, deputy chief officer of Student Affairs said. “Voices that sometimes may feel restricted or unheard.”
According to Dr. Chu, it’s great for administrators and staff to hear and understand where students are, mentally.
“It is one thing to assume and provide engagement opportunities for what I feel students need, but when it comes from the student, it’s much more impactful,” Dr. Chu said. “I understand that sometimes, I need to set aside my lens of seeing things so solution oriented and just be present.”
Finding someone to talk to is another way students have coped with the pandemic.
The VSU Student Health Center has counseling services for students at 1500 N. Patterson St. for students who are struggling. The phone number to the counseling center is 229-333-5940.

Story written by Jonnie Brewer, Assistant Copy editor. Photo courtesy of VSU Student Diversity & Inclusion.

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