Wesleyan students from a range of majors and interests – all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community – applied to the Student Innovation Fund. The fund provided up to $750 for spring OR summer projects that prioritized:
- Collaboration between student groups, faculty/staff, and/or community partners.
- Investigation of the impact of our civic engagement efforts.
- Sharing of ideas and learnings in civic engagement on campus and beyond.
Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA) is a student group under the Office of Community Service umbrella that works to provide young people with the resources and knowledge they need to make healthy sexual decisions. They lead interactive workshops in local high schools about STIs, safe-sex practices, sexual assault prevention, communication and other sexual health issues. ASHA’s presence also extends to the Wesleyan campus, as they organize sexual health related events, facilitate workshops for student groups and organizations, and co-program with other Wesleyan sexual health groups.
Read Jessica Brandon ‘20 and Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ‘19’s Innovation Fund Report below:
ASHA’s goal with our innovation project was critically intervening in our member demographic and addressing the racial and class barriers inherent in our work being volunteer only. By using this money to fund 5 work study positions, we were able to make ASHA more accessible to students with interest in joining ASHA who could not or did not do so outside of compensation for their work. This has been an amazing semester of hearing more voices in our group and learning from this opportunity what else we can do to be more equitable and accessible to the Wesleyan community at large and marginalized communities within it who are often not made to feel safe and welcome in sexual education organizations. We have learned that it may take bigger restructuring of ASHA to carry this improved accessibility into future years, but we now have more members with a commitment to making this radical change together. It is always challenging to recapitulate when an organization has been operating in the same way for many years, but the bumps in this road are well worth the outcome of increasing accessibility to and equitability in ASHA. This has had repercussions outside of the Wesleyan community as well — our new teachers who’s stipends were made possible by the Innovation Fund were all able to get trained and teach in local high schools. Having a more diverse teacher pool helps our curriculum reach more students who may be more likely to respond to teachers that they can relate to. Coordinating ASHA and learning throughout our years at Wesleyan has helped us, Rebecca and Jess, feel prepared to tackle a new chapter of ASHA’s work with sensitivity and commitment. We have learned this semester to pay attention to our members and the already diverse experiences we have as a way to inform our outreach and plans for changes. If you are looking to get involved in the greater Middletown community, try to tune yourself into the communities you want to help support and understand what would be helpful. Listening first rather than speaking will be a great way to support the Middletown community while respecting the autonomy and needs of those outside of Wesleyan. We want to thank the JCCP and the Innovation Fund for making this possible for ASHA, and we are looking forward to what is to come!