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New Health Educator/Title IX Assistant at SUNY Plattsburgh

When Rhema Lewis arrived two months ago as SUNY Plattsburgh’s new health educator/outreach coordinator who also assists the Title IX coordinator, she fell right into step — and hasn’t stopped moving.

Originally from St. Vincent in the Grenadines, and a December graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Lewis has spent her years as a student in health education and saw the dual position at SUNY Plattsburgh as a perfect fit.

“A degree in natural science is so broad, but I was always in health care. It meshed so well with who I am as a person. I love health care; I love teaching,” Lewis said. “I knew this would be something I would enjoy doing.”

As a health educator, Lewis speaks to students about “anything they want to talk about.” As a Title IX assistant under coordinator Dr. Lynda Ames, she’s a victim advocate and educator for sexual violence.

“I advocate for students if they are victimized in any way,” she said. “I present educational events on sexual assault, do tabling events in the Angell College Center where students can get information. STOP Domestic Violence does a table with us for their component. Different student organizations call me to present.”

Her calendar is filled with appointments, and, because student groups meet at all different times of the day and night, Lewis meets with them at all different times.

“My role is to educate and let students know where the resources are,” she said.

She makes it clear she is not a counselor.

“I’m trained to fill in that role if someone needs immediate attention, but mostly I refer students to the appropriate agency or resource,” she said. “I’ve probably touched every student group since I arrived here, and I still have so much to do. … Tabling helps, and I spoke at Take Back the Night, which reached a broader demographic.”

Lewis is also reaching out to the faculty, asking them to help be her eyes and ears in the classrooms.

“I hope to do training with faculty in the fall to help steer them to the right resources as well,” she said.

Her work as an advocate is richly rewarding and has been a natural offshoot of what she studied in college, Lewis said.

“I loved my job as a student, and I knew I wanted to continue doing what I was doing,” she said. “So many things affect college students. They don’t think about it until someone close to them has been affected or victimized. They feel invincible. Changing that dynamic is important to me. Just because you don’t have the disease or haven’t been assaulted doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you. That’s where the education comes in. But most of all, I am their advocate, first and foremost.”

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