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Jaden Koren, Colin Walters and Chief Jim Weaver pose for a photo on the Christy Mall

Knowing that many of their fellow classmates were struggling with their mental health led Colin Walters ’25 and Jaden Koren ’23 to pursue training to become Certified Peer Educators (CPE) and begin planning a support center on campus.

Thanks to a recent grant from the Sisters Health Foundation, a new Peer Counseling Center will be opened on campus by Spring Break. The $20,000 grant will also fund Marietta Mindset activities for the spring semester.

“The Peer Counseling Center is a place for students to socialize, de-stress, and share their struggles and successes with trained CPE students who are there to support their fellow Pioneers however necessary,” Walters says. “The Peer Counseling Center’s goal is to provide support and encouragement to students who may be struggling with personal success, mental health/fitness, and academic goals.”

Suzy Zumwalde, a clinical mental health counselor and advisor to the Marietta Mindset group, says five students have worked to plan the new center, which will be located in Andrews Hall in the Riggs Boardroom.

“The grant will help cover our startup costs for the new peer counseling center,” Zumwalde says. “This would have been very difficult for us to do without (the Sisters Health Foundation’s) generosity, and we are very grateful for this funding.”

Koren says, statistically, students are more likely to reach out to a peer before seeking out a professional.

“The full details of training for this position are still in progress, but some things it will include are taking the Certified Peer Educator course offered by Suzy Zumwalde and completing QPR suicide training,” Koren says. “We want to make sure that all workers are qualified to support students as best as they can.”

Chantal Centofanti-Fields, Grants and Foundation Officer at Marietta, says the funding comes through the Sisters’ Responsive Grant Program. The award came at the end of 2022, along with another grant from the Office of Criminal Justice Services through the Violence Prevention Program. That American Rescue Act grant provides $193,395 from the federal government to support officer retention and the hiring of a new full-time officer for 24 months.

“They found that a lot of police departments across the country are losing staff because officers and dispatchers had so much additional work put on them during the worst parts of the pandemic that they were either switching jobs or quitting altogether,” Centofanti-Fields says. “Part of what we’re trying to do with this funding is provide incentives for officers to stay on the job. … The other part is hiring an additional officer to get us back to pre-pandemic staffing in our Police Department.”

Marietta College Police Chief Jim Weaver says the grant will impact students and campus in multiple ways — from having the campus have more officers to respond to need, keeping officers at Marietta so they have time to build relationships with students and employees, and boosting morale and staving off burnout that arose due to the pandemic.

“We have a unique style at Marietta, and our mentality is ‘Everything we do is community policing’ — which can involve unlocking a door, changing a tire, providing an escort to a student in need, responding to a crisis, and just being there for a student or an employee,” Weaver says. “Our mentality is not a punitive one. Obviously, that is part of our job, and an important part, but we’re more interested in building a positive relationship at the front end, so if there is ever something punitive, it can go much smoother.”

Weaver’s department takes a sophisticated approach to community enforcement and care.

“We try to make everything an educational process,” Weaver says. “It’s not, ‘You’ve done something wrong and now you need to be punished.’ It’s ‘Here’s what you did, here’s why it’s wrong, and here are some other options that you can do otherwise.’ Everything is a teachable moment.”