New campus organization seeks to change FHSU health culture

BY CORIE LYNN

Fort Hays State University is home to a variety of student organizations. From Shooting Club to religious organizations, each provides students with opportunities for community service, sharpening their professional skills or making connections with other like-minded individuals.

Hoping to bring a new focus on mental and physical well-being to campus, a new organization called American Healthy Heart Association has joined their number.

“We advocate for mental and physical health. We recognize our peers with underlying health problems,” said Anthony Ventura, founder and president of the organization.

He and fellow AHHA members hope to do so by normalizing the stigma around mental illness and counseling as well as through partnering with other organizations such as the Pre-Med and Pre-Dental clubs.

Ventura explained, however, that AHHA differs from other health-focused organizations in that it is student-based, allowing members from any major and focusing on pressing health issues. He sees a culture that looks too far ahead, missing the problems that affect students in the present.

“We miss out on what’s going on with our students, what’s going on on the campus, what’s going on with stress and depression and anxiety,” he said.

Mark Faber, the organization’s Vice President, sees this focus on mental health especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. He joined AHHA hoping to make a difference in the lives of his fellow students and to promote success among them.

“The most important thing that AHHA offers is a culture of success and progress,” he said. “Meeting with determined and like-minded people helps to boost the level of success that all individuals of the group can have.”

His views this success as coming from living a healthy lifestyle and helping others to do the same, meeting each individual’s specific needs.

“By being accepting of all people and pushing for a more positive atmosphere in everything you do, you are advocating to others that they too can reach their potential in leading a healthy life,” Faber said.

Ventura, who has plans to become a heart doctor, shares Faber’s view, with the desire to help others achieve health as his inspiration for founding the organization. The need became evident to him during the past summer as he saw the Hays community feeling trapped and unmotivated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It inspired me to make it for the students,” Ventura said. “I wanted to make a difference among campus and change the culture.”

Looking forward to the semester, he, Faber and the other student members of AHHA will join their partner organizations to make this goal a reality.

Soon, the group will partner with Hays Med to help students learn basic life saving techniques like CPR.

They also hope to join with the Diabetic Network on campus to help meet the unique needs of diabetic students.

“I really wanted to do something for them so that they can focus on studying, and so one of the projects that we’re finalizing […] with the Foundation is the Insulin Project,” Ventura said.

The project would establish a scholarship for diabetic FHSU students specifically to offset the cost of insulin. Similar scholarships, he explained, have requirements that are difficult for students to meet when they are already struggling to pay for their medicine while balancing school.

Though this particular project is still in the works, AHHA is on its way to making a difference in the lives of FHSU students.

For those who would like to become involved with the organization or simply learn more about it, information is available on AHHA’s Tiger Link page or at @ahha_fhsu on Instagram.

Ventura reiterated that the organization is open to all majors and that weekly meetings, which include guest speakers, emphasize discussion and involvement from everyone.

“I hope that anyone who does join American Healthy Heart, or anyone who doesn’t, feel[s] free to reach out to any members or I,” he said. “Anything we can do to help you academically or anything that we can do to help you with jobs or volunteers, we can do that.”

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