Gannon University hosted its inaugural Student Safety Expo Tuesday afternoon to raise awareness and create a safer living and learning environment for student, staff and faculty.
The event, held in the Yehl Ballrooom, was sponsored by S.A.V.E. and Gannon University Police and Safety. S.A.V.E stands for Students Against Violence Everywhere and is an on-campus Gannon organization that aims to educate students, faculty and staff about interpersonal violence on campus.
Dan Gennaro, a community outreach assistant for the Crime Victim Center of Erie County and S.A.V.E. assistant, worked with Katie Allison, violence prevention/education coordinator with S.A.V.E., to create the event.
“We really saw a need for this type of event,” Gennaro said. “We knew that there was a Wellness Expo and a Service Expo, but there wasn’t anything to educate students about their own personal safety.”
Gennaro said that the student attendance was lower than expected. “Our biggest struggle is getting students to attend this event,” he said. “A lot of the different causes we advocate for are touchy, taboo subjects that most people don’t want to seek help for.”
Gennaro said about 30 to 35 vendors were invited to participate and they had an excellent turnout with 22 actually attending the expo.
Vendors at the expo included Pennsylvania State Troopers, District Attorney’s Office, Erie County Department of Health and SafeNet of Erie.
Rachel Andrews, an outreach advocate and training host for SafeNet of Erie, said that she was glad they could be a part of the expo.
“Our main focus here is on dating violence and healthy relationships,” Andrews said. “We also want them to understand what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. With today’s media sending such mixed messages on what is appropriate in a relationship, I think this is really something all young people should know.
“There haven’t been many students here today,” Andrews added. “But even if we can help just three students notice the early warning signs of abusive relationships, this will have all been worth it.”
Senior pre-physical therapy student Ashley Wyrick is the president of Active Minds, a mental health awareness organization on campus.
Active Minds works closely with the counseling center on Gannon’s campus to raise awareness of various mental health issues and to defeat the social stigma that comes along with having one.
“So many people are too afraid to even associate with people who have a mental illness,” Wyrick said. “Active Minds aims to create a sort of equal grounds between students here at Gannon.”
This fall, Active Minds will be conducting Post Secret, a program where students can write down an anonymous confession on a Post-It note, which will then be hung around campus. Students are encouraged to write down comments on others’ confessions.
Gennaro said he is excited to see where the expo will go in the future.
“This expo is definitely something that we will be putting on for years to come,” he said. “This is something that the whole community can benefit from. This year’s expo is everything we could have hoped for.”