The White House honored 10 students from around the country as “Champions of Change” Thursday for their work combating sexual violence on college campuses, including University of Miami graduate student Valerie Halstead. The event was held at the end of the It’s On Us Week of Action, held during National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The It’s On Us campaign, which was created in September of 2014, has “engaged students at over 500 schools in 48 states, had more than 340,000 people sign the ‘It’s On Us’ pledge, and worked with community members and celebrities alike to support survivors and change the culture around sexual assault,” according to the White House.
“The ten individuals were selected by the White House as ‘Champions of Change’ for their leadership in mobilizing others to change the culture around sexual assault and dating violence and to create systemic changes on their campuses and beyond,” read a press release from the White House.
Halstead graduated from UM in 2012 and worked as a nurse for a year before returning for graduate school, where she is working on a dissertation that studies the way student health centers handle sexual violence on college campuses. She serves on the Resource Committee and Campus Climate Survey Committee of the President’s Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence and Prevention, which was created in 2014.
Halstead, 26, said Sunday that she studies the issue because she believes student health centers can help quell the consequences and effects of sexual violence on survivors. “Since there are significant consequences and the prevalence is so high, it’s important that the student health center serves as a resource for students, especially since it’s right on campus,” she said.
Halstead said that meeting and hearing Vice President Joe Biden speak on the topic empowered and encouraged her to continue her work, and that she was honored to be nominated by the coalition on campus.
“It was just really exciting and empowering to see these other leaders in the area and engage in conversation. And then to hear the vice president speak on that issue, right in front of me, was just really inspiring and empowering to continue this work and it shows me on a larger level that all the changes that are being made in this area to address this topic.”
“It’s a coalition, not a task force or committee, so it’s not like we go there and are tasked to do certain things,” Halstead said. “We go to this forum to report what’s already being done and [are]ensuring that everyone else in the community is aware of what’s being done, and to continue those relationships amongst the community, and to see who else wants to engage to make the programming, or whatever were doing, stronger.”
To find out more about the Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.