Haven Ambassador Program: Students Supporting Students

Haven Ambassador Program: Students Supporting Students

Student access to resources regarding sexual violence support is of the upmost importance on college campuses. The Haven Ambassador Program aims to do just that – create a safe space for students to lean on their fellow peers for support. Senior Emma Burke helped establish the Haven Ambassador program three years ago as a first-year student along with Haven’s former director, Tracia Banuelos. Burke spoke to how the program came to be.

“When I was here as a first-year and even when I toured, I remember wanting to get involved in Haven as much as I could, because it was something that really stood out to me on my tour, more than any other tours that I had been on. But when I came on campus, there was not really a student opportunity for people to get involved in Haven… and there was a really big resource gap on campus where there were no individual resources where students could go without the position of authority being in the way.”

Burke said the major difference between Haven staff and the ambassador program is the role of students.

“Haven is really a survivor-centric center for sexual assault on campus. It’s really a place for individuals who have been victims of sexual assault to go to seek help and counseling from employees of the school for instances that have happened or if they’ve ever felt unsafe on campus or want to file a complaint or file a report against [another] individual,” Burke said. “So [ambassadors] are not licensed psychologists or counselors or anything, we’re really there to just help guide them towards other resources on campus, or also just to be like a listening ear to people.”

Senior Ellie Pitkowsky, who is involved in the program, also emphasized how students exude a similar role to employees at Haven but also serve as intermediaries between student support and professional help.

“I’d describe the role as someone who’s in the middle of students seeking information or access to resources and professionals who can provide those resources. I think it’s so important that there’s someone or a group of people that make it easier for students to obtain this information because it takes some of the stress and pressure off. Students on campus should feel like fellow students have their back and are ready to help while still acting professional and respecting confidentiality.”

Haven Ambassadors are, in the most general sense, a source of support for students who might not necessarily want to talk to someone employed by Colgate. Ambassadors are available to meet with fellow students anonymously through text, email, phone call, or in-person to listen and provide the appropriate resources. However, it is not an easy title to earn. 

“[Trainees] spend a lot of time working on survivor-centric language as it is very ingrained into our society to victim blame, even unconsciously, so having training sessions on that has been really important. There are other educational aspects where we’ll talk about different types of abuse – such as sexual, physical and emotional – and how there’s many different ways that that happens and and not many people are aware of it…so [training] is meant to be very educational and is very imperative to becoming a resource.”

Spencer Seaman, a senior who has been a part of the Haven Ambassador program since she was a first-year student, spoke to her ongoing dedication to the group and how her efforts have supplemented the workplace she is now also a part of.  

“I still attend meetings every month and I’m actually now working at the [District Attorney’s] office in the special victims unit. So I think that being able to have a meaningful position on campus when I’m working with other women, and men as well, who are active and passionate about social justice work particularly around health, [domestic violence] (DV), and sexual violence support has been a really cool experience to have here.” 

Burke expressed future hopes and goals for the Ambassador program.

“We want to continue to grow into a very integral part of campus life for issues pertaining to both Greek life and non-Greek life cases… I think that it would be ideal to have Haven ambassadors be assigned to specific commons and have them be very important parts of the Link groups because everyone remembers their Link that they had in their first year. Having that familiar face in that person is so important as freshman year is when sexual assault rates have appeared to be the highest.” 

Burke further emphasized the overarching importance of the Ambassador program. 

“There was a survey that was done in 2018, I think it was like 60 or 80 percent of students said that they would tell their peers before anyone of authority or anyone employed by the school if they had been involved in sexual assault. So providing these peer resources is easier for individuals who have been victims of sexual assault.”