Universanté: preventative health actions by and for students
The Universanté project is run by 30 student ambassadors from the Champs-sur-Marne campus. It rais-es awareness and informs the student community about Covid-19, sexual and emotional life, drug use, mental health and well-being. This is a new service in response to an equally new situation.
You have probably already noticed them and perhaps even benefited from their advice. Easily recog-nisable by their electric blue windbreakers, the 30 student ambassadors of Universanté have been present in front of the Lavoisier cafeteria (Champs-sur-Marne campus) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 11am and 3pm since December 2020. What is their mission? To raise awareness and inform the student community about Covid-19 (social distancing, vaccination, Covid tests, etc.) but also about sexual and emotional life, drug use, mental health and well-being. “We distribute masks, con-doms, prevention brochures and organise activities, games and quizzes,” says Alyssa, a student am-bassador. “We are here to answer questions, give advice or simply listen. This is very important espe-cially at the moment: students often come to us or write to us on social networks to find psychological support.”
The Universanté ambassadors’ work is not limited to presence on campus three times a week. They are also active on social media - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, record a monthly radio show broadcast on the youtube channel of Radio Recc, and are developing new mediation tools (games, puzzles, es-cape games, etc.) to facilitate exchanges with students. “We have a lot of freedom of action,” says Alyssa. “The trust we have from the University allows us to create projects on subjects that are im-portant to us. For example, since January we have been working on a project on menstrual insecurity with dedicated posts and stories on social networks, an art competition in partnership with the Universi-ty's art clubs and the installation of free sanitary protection dispensers.”
Initiated by the DDARS 771 in partnership with Université Gustave Eiffel and Crips2 in Île-de-France, Universanté is a peer-to-peer prevention scheme: by students for students. “The idea was to strengthen the knowledge and skills of the ambassadors in order to give them all the keys to become autonomous in prevention work” explains Juliette Descroix, project manager at Crips. With this in mind, from October 2020, the 30 students followed a training course run by Crips and Codes3 93 on Covid, vaccination, an active approach, etc. “They decide who to interview for their radio show, what and when to post on so-cial networks, and they design posters” explains Juliette Descroix. “Moreover, they have been involved in the construction of the project from the outset: they were the ones who wanted to be trained on sexu-al and emotional life, drug prevention, mental health and well-being.”
Université Gustave Eiffel is the first French university to set up a system like Universanté. The experi-ment carried out on the Champs-sur-Marne campus has been successful and will be offered at other universities: “We are developing similar approaches with Paris Saclay, Paris-Est Créteil, Paris 13 and Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines,” confirms Juliette Descroix. “Universanté is a great project that allows students to speak freely and express their feelings, it's great that other institutions can have the same opportunity” says Alyssa.
1 Seine-et-Marne Departmental Delegation of the Île-de-France Regional Health Agency
2 Regional centre for information and prevention of AIDS and for the health of young people
3 Departmental Health Education Committee