When Megan Gray and Jayshawn Anderson asked student leaders at the U for examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the responses came quickly.
- An unhealthy friend doesn’t want to see you succeed.
- In an unhealthy relationship, the power dynamics are unequal.
- A healthy friend is honest and real with me.
Listing healthy and unhealthy relationships portrayed in media was easy, too. Jada Pinkett and Will Smith, yes. “The Bachelor,” no. And so on.
The students were soon engaged in a lively discussion about relationships, the prelude to helping these campus leaders learn how to increase healthy relationship awareness with their peers.
Gray is an engagement manager for the One Love Foundation, while Anderson is an engagement coordinator. They spent two days at the U before the start of fall semester conducting healthy relationship sessions with more than 150 students. In addition to the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU), the pair met with student-athletes—the women’s soccer and track and field teams and the football team.
One Love’s sessions emphasize peer-to-peer interaction so that students learn not only how to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships in their own lives but also how to intercede and lead by example.
“We are focusing on helping students understand and identify healthy versus unhealthy relationship behaviors,” Gray said. “Our goal is to empower students so they are able to say something to their friends and peers when they see something is off.”
The U, through the Office of the President, partnered with One Love after the murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey in October 2018. This is the foundation’s second visit to campus to meet with students.
One Love was founded to honor Yeardley Love, a student-athlete at the University of Virginia who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2010. The foundation works to educate people about signs of healthy and unhealthy relationship behavior—signs that neither Yeardley nor her family and friends recognized in her situation.
Its goal is simple: By educating young people at a young age about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, as well as early warning signs, it aims to be part of the solution that saves lives.
“There is no Relationship 101 class in our lives, but every aspect of our lives has a relationship in it,” Gray said.
For Gabe Martinez, ASUU vice president of student relations, the One Love training session he attended was eye-opening.
“I’d never been in a training that heavy,” Martinez said. “I thought it was very informative. A lot of people go through these types of experiences, and I would say I am more aware and educated than I was in the past.”
In fact, Martinez, AnnaMarie Barnes (ASUU president) and Latifa Yaqoobi (vice president of university relations) were elected on a platform that included a focus on campus safety, access to mental health and health services and building a positive campus for all.
“As leaders, the number of students we encounter is high. Because of this training, we are more situationally aware of what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like,” Martinez said. “We also feel more empowered to speak about it, to act upon it and to recognize when these situations occur in our friend groups, our own lives and in the lives of all the students we serve.”