Student Allies in Health starts caregiving opportunities for students


Katarina Rothhorn, Features Editor

Rachel Mitchell, senior nursing major, felt surprised by her peers as she tried to keep her flyers from blowing away on the wind and watched hundreds of students milling about the other colorful tables around her. Going into Fall Fest, she had expected only a few people to stop by her table advertising her new student organization, Student Allies in Health. At the end of the day, instead of the two or three signatures she was expecting, she had close to twenty. 

“When I did my pitch about connecting the community and getting people involved, people were like, ‘yeah, definitely. That sounds like something I want to do,’” Mitchell said. “Throughout the day, I was like, ‘you guys surprised me today, my campus really surprised me today.’ It was such a good feeling to know that even if someone didn’t follow through with coming to the meetings, they at least had some sort of interest.”

Mitchell began Student Allies in Health as a way to connect those interested in providing care and support to those who need care within the campus community. She is the Student Activity Coordinator for the Caregiver Incentive Project which is a group in the Marquette community that is dedicated to ending “the national shortage of qualified in-home caregivers.” Her partnership with CIP motivated her to begin a student focused chapter on NMU’s campus and provide more students with a caregiving experience. 

Students do not need to currently be caregivers in order to be a part of the organization and students of all majors and backgrounds are welcome.

I want this group to be the kind of group that makes stuff happen,” Mitchell said. “I have already felt so inspired by the students who have shown up and asked questions and they have a genuine interest in bettering the community around us.”

Student Allies in Health does not have a specific set of guidelines for the club and Mitchell is open to starting any volunteer projects that students are interested in starting. She also hopes to make the organization as little of a time commitment as possible.

“I think not having a strict set of rules for a well established group has made it much more personable, and it made it seem more manageable too,” Mitchell said. “I’m not here to stress you out any further. I want you to give any time you feel like you have to give, because even just an hour of your time could make a world of difference in someone else’s life.”

Mitchell is also helping connect interested students with the CIP caregiver training. The training is not necessary for students in the organization but provides an opportunity to become a certified caregiver. The training is divided into four hour segments over three days, is free to attend and provides a $150 stipend to those who complete the course. 

The CIP also offers scholarship opportunities for students and helps repay student loan debt. 

“It’s nice that we are kind of an extension of the CIP because the CIP offers caregiver training,” Mitchell said. “Being that direct link for students for debt reimbursement or scholarship opportunities and also just a chance to have something to build your resume … You should be recognized for what you do and you should be recognized for your passion to continue to better this world.”

Student Allies in Health is currently working to partner with NMU Rural Health and find more in-person volunteer opportunities on campus. As a new student organization during COVID, that is a little tricky, but Mitchell hopes to create more relationships with other health organizations around Marquette.

“It’s very weird because of COVID right now,” Mitchell said. “A lot of places don’t just want rogue students who don’t have training as a caregiver, because you don’t have to be a caregiver to be a part of the group. Honestly, we will go anywhere we can apply; it is not really limited to home health.”

The organization is currently working on a project to increase awareness about mental health opportunities and support systems in and around campus. It is the first of their many initiatives suggested by students at the Student Allies in Health Wednesday meetings. Their next meeting is on Sept. 29 at 5:30 p.m. in Jamrich Hall.

“We are a support group for students because we are students, we all have student problems, and we can support each other through this group,” Mitchell said. “But it is also supposed to be an action group where we essentially are upset about something and we want to change something, and then we make it happen through collective effort and group mentality.”

The group is also looking to change the stigma surrounding students on campus who may rely on a caregiver. They are hoping more students will be comfortable stepping forward to talk about their experiences with them and have a safe space to discuss the realities of needing and being a caregiver. 

“We have a lot of students on campus and a lot of people don’t realize they rely on a caregiver, whether or not that’s for getting help to get to school or even just at home,” Mitchell said. “We don’t think of our peers in class, we see them in class, and then we have no idea what happens as soon as they leave campus … I think that’s inspiring in its own right to see how hard some people are working when everyone has told them that this is impossible.”