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A Lasting Impact on Our Graduating Seniors: The Diversity Peer Educators

By GIA Center

Students at the University of Dayton have the opportunity to engage with their peers on topics such as mental health, the LGBTQIA+ community, sexual violence awareness and social justice through peer education programs like Co-Pilots, Q*mmunity Members, PAVE, and Diversity Peer Educators. Known as “DPE'' for short, the Diversity Peer Educators program is a collaborative effort between the Global & Intercultural Affairs Center (GIA) and the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center (MEC). 

With graduation quickly approaching, we sat down with some of our senior DPEs to talk about the skills they’ve gained in the program and their future plans. Deja Tart (Psychology), Juan Lopez (Human Rights, Pre-law), Sierra Cook (Health Science, Integrative Physiology), Camila Sanchez-Gonzalez (Biology), and Sama Ahmed (Mechanical Engineering) share some of their favorite memories and lessons learned from their time as Diversity Peer Educators.

How would you describe what DPE is to someone unfamiliar with the program?

Sama: DPE is a program that trains university students to become Certified Peer Educators that speak on social justice issues with their fellow peers. We are equipped with the tools to have conversations, which we call “DPE Chats,” surrounding white privilege, microaggressions, and implicit bias, among other topics. DPEs also put on engaging and useful programs around cultural heritage months, or to raise awareness for different issues like cultural appropriation around Halloween time.

What has DPE meant to you during your time at the University of Dayton? 

Camila: DPE has been a transformative experience during my college education, as I have learned how to be an active listener and a supportive ally to other marginalized groups and identities. I’ve also learned how to create space for those who might not be knowledgeable or aware about certain topics. I have been able to apply these skills in my day-to-day life by asking clarifying questions with close friends and family, researching terms I am still unaware of, and supporting multicultural events. 

Juan: I truly believe DPE has impacted my public speaking skills for the better. My goal is to be an attorney one day, and DPE has prepared me for difficult conversations and how to navigate them. I do not think I would be able to talk in front of a group without shaking if it wasn't for DPE. It has impacted the way I approach people because I feel more confident and comfortable talking to people, which will be useful in my future career.

What are some of your favorite programs and activities from your time in DPE?

Sierra: DPE retreats happen during the beginning of the semester, and they are always super fun and engaging because they allow newcomers and older members to develop stronger connections with one another and catch up with what has been going on in everyone’s lives. The DPE photoshoots are also some of my favorite memories because it captures how we all felt about DPE and each other through the frames…seeing the photos bring back nostalgic memories of the funny behind-the-scenes moments of taking the pictures. One of my favorite programs from my time in DPE is the My Culture Is Not A Costume event, which is geared towards educating others on cultural appropriation during Halloween. From planning everything in class, to seeing how everyone was engaged in the activities and the amount of people showing up, the entire process was fulfilling and exciting to see!

Camila: One of my favorite programs that have been done in DPE during my time in the program was the event we organized for Latinx & Hispanic Heritage Month in 2022, called Salud! A Look at Healthcare in Latin American Countries. It was a unique experience for me because I was able to bring part of my Puerto Rican identity to the table and showcase it to the campus community, while simultaneously combining it with my personal interest in public health.

Why do you think DPE and other social justice related programs are important to have on our UD campus?

Deja: As UD is a Catholic Marianist PWI (Predominantly White Institution), having spaces such as DPE or other culturally oriented organizations on campus creates a hub for connection and unity for those who seek such opportunities. Being able to be around people who are similar to you or think in similar ways gives you the chance to be authentically yourself. Many of our peers on campus may not be familiar with concepts and policies that affect the everyday lives of marginalized groups, so programs such as Diversity Peer Educators invite them to sit down with us and continue their social justice education. 

How has dialogue (i.e. your experiences with DPE Chats) played a role in how you approach difficult conversations? 

Juan: Being able to better myself and others is something that really drives me. I think most people do not know how they might offend others, whether it be intentional or not. Thanks to my experiences with DPE, I always go into difficult conversations with the intent to understand the other person because I want people to learn from each other without being offended or threatened.  

Camila: Dialogue has been an interesting journey to navigate with students from different backgrounds especially being within a PWI…I’ve had both good and uncomfortable experiences. However, I’ve come to realize that my job as a peer educator is not to convince students about what is right or wrong, but to help them question what can be done when placed in positions of privilege or vulnerability. 

Sierra: Dialogue has played a role in how I approach difficult conversations through reading others body language and answers. I feel that when talking to someone, a person’s body language is important, especially when difficult topics are involved.  It allows you to recognize and gauge how a topic affects them and give you an idea of how to proceed forward with the conversation. In DPE Chats, whether they were over Zoom or in person, I was able to tell how much the topic being discussed was engaging and whether or not I had to take a different approach to try and reach them. 

How will you apply the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during your time in DPE as you pursue the next steps in your career? 

Sama: Participating in DPE has awakened my interest in making a difference in a college student's life by believing in them and nurturing their skills to take on the world. I did most of my character development in college and fought for social justice rights on this campus and DPE helped me be that leader. As a result, I’ve decided to pursue a Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs because my goal is to help other students find the leader within themselves and feel strong when the world tells them otherwise.

Sierra: I will use my knowledge and skills from DPE and college as a whole to advocate for my patients in the healthcare field, as well as different healthcare policies that leave underrepresented communities vulnerable and silences their voices. The healthcare field needs more people in general, especially after the pandemic, and more women of color are needed in these spaces so when People Of Color (POC) go to healthcare facilities and need treatment, they get to see someone who looks like them and sees them. My goal is to one day be able to start a scholarship for undergraduates pursuing a career in the medical field who identify as women of color.

Deja: In the future, I see myself working in an educational environment, which can be one of the first avenues for individuals, especially children, to be surrounded by new cultures, ideologies, and identities. With the knowledge and skills I’ve learned from DPE, I want to be the person that children can come to and feel accepted and  comfortable sharing experiences with, no matter how they identify.

Advice for incoming or future DPEs?

Sama: Take in the time you have as a DPE and cherish what it means to create a difference on campus by having tough conversations and being courageous enough to be that student leader. Also, have fun!

Deja:  Don’t be afraid to do anything! Whether that is exploring different identities or cultures, hosting events, or speaking publicly, you will have the most amazing support system behind you. Enjoy DPE as it is such a unique, important program on campus.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Diversity Peer Educators, please contact them via

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