Volunteer Voices: Nicole Kolak

Published on July 11th, 2018

Name: Nicole Kolak

Pronouns In Use: She, Her, Hers

College/ University: San Francisco State University

Major: Physics

Why did you decide to volunteer at Peer Health Exchange?

I decided to join Peer Health Exchange because I was captivated by the idea of teaching health education to underprivileged schools in the San Francisco area. Before Peer Health Exchange, I had no idea there was a lack of health education in the public school system. After getting what I believe to be a very good health education, I saw that this was a huge problem and I wanted to become a part of the solution.

What about Peer Health Exchange’s vision or mission attracted you to the organization?

I resonated with the fact that Peer Health Exchange is taking action for a cause that not only I believe in but they are passionate about. Together, we are making a difference in these high schooler’s lives.

What have you gained and/or learned from volunteering at Peer Health Exchange?

I have gained an immense amount of teaching skills. I have had the amazing opportunity to learn so much about how to manage a high school classroom and group of volunteers. The skills I have gained have allowed me to become a better leader as well as team player. I have developed into a confident, ardent, and poised young lady all thank you to the trainings and experience that Peer Health Exchange has given me.

What does health equity mean to you?

Health equity means that everyone has an equal opportunity for a healthy life, and I believe this starts with health education. Health education is essential to have a quality state of life. Health education and access to health education can directly affect your physical and mental health. Without this education students lack the knowledge on how to properly take care of themselves when it comes to topics such as sex, alcohol, drugs, and mental health. These students need knowledge on these subjects in order to make an educated decision by knowing the consequences of their actions.

What has been your most memorable moment as a Peer Health Exchange volunteer?

My most memorable PHE moment was in the classroom teaching the sexual health content. It’s not anything in particular that the student’s said but the fact that the class went amazing. Everyone was participating in the conversation. Everyone was interested, asking question after question. Those are my favorite days, when the students are really learning and engaging in the content. I loved answering all their questions and showing them that sex is nothing to be embarrassed about or feel weird about, that it’s normal and we can totally talk about it. It was my most memorable day this year, seeing them retain this information put a huge smile on my face. I truly bonded with the class that day.

What issues are you most concerned about?

The biggest issue I am concerned about is mental health. Mental health has such a stigma in society and most of the time mental health goes undiagnosed. The students need this information about mental health to take away the stigma and be able to recognize poor mental health. Going beyond that, the students need to know how to get help for not only them but others that may be suffering from poor mental health.

Who inspires you and/or who is your role model when it comes to health advocacy and why?

When I was in high school, my little sister was struggling with depression. We weren’t sure what the symptoms were separately but when we put the symptoms together they added up to depression. Due to my own parent’s lack of health education, it took them far longer to notice the signs let alone put everything together. However, once they suspected depression they took the proper steps to give her the help she needed. My little sister is my inspiration and role model when it comes to health advocacy. She has shown such positive progression with her mental health and it inspires me every day.

What are you doing to practice self-care over the summer?

This summer to practice self-care I plan on keeping up with my workout routine and focusing on what makes me happy. I find that when I am truly happy I am at my healthiest, mentally and physically. This includes giving myself some physical and mental rest when I notice myself becoming moody or my body is just overall fatigued. Knowing when I am not in good health is key to maintaining self-care. This summer I am working a full-time 7:30 am – 5 pm job so knowing when to give myself a break this summer will make or break my self-care routine.

Anything else you would want us to know about you and/or your experience with Peer Health Exchange?

Peer Health Exchange has been one of the greatest organizations I have been a part of. I have never felt more welcomed and appreciated than I do when I step into Peer Health Exchange meetings. The people associated with Peer Health Exchange continuously surprise me with the amount of support and help they offer to their volunteers.

How can I join Peer Health Exchange's mission?