Owls Care named No. 1 Peer Education Group

The group does more than just hand out condoms — it also teaches students about mental and physical health.


The Owls Care staff is available on the second floor of the Breezeway. Photo by Melanie Witherup

Cameren Boatner, Staff Writer

You may know Owls Care leaders for giving out brown bags of free condoms or presenting in the Breezeway on your way to class.


Through these presentations and leading workshops, they teach students to care for their mental health and debunk some common myths along the way.


As of January, Owls Care was named an “Outstanding Peer Education Group” by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). Owls Care is a resource on campus dedicated to teaching students about wellness, mental health, and suicide prevention.


Owls Care leaders teach FAU students that wellness is more than “eating right, exercising and being skinny,” said Tessa Moody, an Owls Care leader. She said it’s also about knowing your body and learning how to care for yourself.


NASPA awarded Owls Care for their education on mental health, drugs, and alcohol awareness.


Meet the women


Tessa Moody is a self-proclaimed “fat Owls Care leader,” advocating not only for her own body, but for other fat people on campus. Moody tries to teach students that weight is not an indicator of health, among other topics that Owls Care presents.


During a typical jam-packed 50-minute presentation, the staff presents topics such as sexual assault, mental health, and wellness on the Breezeway, Diversity Way and other parts of campus.


“I tend to be really worried about all the people we’re communicating with, but I know for each of us, at least one of the topics we talk about is extremely personal. It’s almost as if we’re advocating for ourselves or someone close to us when we’re talking about these things, but to everyone else, it’s just a concept they don’t understand,” Moody said.


But Moody says it’s worth it to see the students learn things about themselves and other people they may not have previously known — and Natasha Murray, an exercise science major and Owls Care leader, agrees.


“At the end of the day, people are enlightened at the conversation we’re having. They have a real genuine moment of actually being interested in what we’re saying, and soaking up the information,” said Murray. “And they remember you the next week, so that’s really rewarding.”


Murray joined initially because she wanted to make friends, but soon found a community of like-minded women and learned about her own self-care, as well.


Other leaders joined to push themselves out of their comfort zones.


Kaylalea Mendez had public speaking anxiety in a major based around public speaking — communications. She joined Owls Care to force herself to present, but ended up exposing herself to much more, she said.


For Savannah Cuddy, her job has come full circle. She found Owls Care on the Breezeway when some previous leaders were hiring positions. They spoke about mental health, and she signed up on the spot. Now, she’s recruiting students to be future Owls Care leaders.


An inclusive approach


Owls Care presents wellness to students in a different way than your normal doctor’s office. It’s a personalized approach, Moody said, based not only on exercising and eating healthy, but also your socioeconomic background, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and more.


Gender-specific risk factors in mental disorders affect more women than they do men, according to the World Health Organization. Some of these risk factors include “gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income, and income inequality, [and] low or subordinate social status.”


“In our culture, women or fem-presenting people are really discouraged from knowing about their bodies, and that would help them advocate for themselves in their personal relationships, workplace, at the doctor’s office,” Moody said. “We encourage you to utilize our resources and use them to learn how to advocate for yourself. You shouldn’t be afraid to request respect and care.”

More than just condoms?

Owls Care has tons of resources beyond giving out free condoms, and it’s paid for in your tuition. What are they, and how can you use them?


“We’ve got free condoms, we’ve got dental dams, free lube. Any type of sex a person can have, we’ve got stuff to protect you,” Moody said.


But Owls Care offers a lot more, and it’s covered by your tuition.


What else they offer:


  • Registered dietician
  • HIV testing (free on Tuesdays)
  • Free individual health and wellness consultations


They also give away free FAU currency, or “Hoot Loot,” if you come to their booths on the Breezeway to have a conversation. Their catchphrase is, “If you learn something, you earn something.”


You can then use the Hoot Loot to buy FAU merch, as well as everyday household products, at the bookstore or other places.


The Women and Gender Equity Resource Center (WGERC) is another resource for women on campus. They offer workshops on women and gender and other amenities like these:


  • Gender-themed library
  • Menstrual products
  • Heating pads
  • Lactation room (Inside the Women and Gender Center)
  • Pregnancy tests


Where you can find them:


You can find Owls Care online at fau.edu/owlscare, and they’re located on the second floor of the Breezeway on the Boca campus at the Student Services Building, room 222.


On the Jupiter Campus, they’re located at the Student Resource Building, room 112.


And at the Broward Campus, they’re located at the Davie Student Union, room 206.

Flip the Script

This rape prevention curriculum is the first of its kind in the U.S.


Flip the Script, a sexual assault prevention program at FAU under Owls Care, is teaching women how to defend themselves physically and verbally, and dispelling rape myths and stigmas. The prevention-based curriculum lessened the risk of sexual assault by almost 50 percent by the New England Journal of Medicine in one study conducted on university women.


They teach four core beliefs to the women in the course:

  1. Rape is never the victim’s fault.
  2. Strangers usually aren’t responsible — it’s people you know.
  3. College women are most at risk for sexual assault.
  4. Women can recognize manipulative behavior by identifying their goals with their partner.

Gabriella Tabib, a graduate student and facilitator at Flip the Script, said, “[v]ictims, or survivors of sexual assault, a lot of the time are blamed for something that was done to them, and by the end of the class, what we see is lower instances of victim blaming, which is the goal … We want these women to feel that sexual assault is never their fault.”


The four three-hour classes throughout every semester are free to FAU students, and you can sign up on their website at fau.edu/owlscare/flipthescript. But be sure to register early — the classes fill up quickly.

Cameren Boatner is a staff writer with University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].