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UTRGV Superhero Project Reveals Superpowers, Wins National Award

by Maria Elena Hernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – A University of Texas Rio Grande Valley project aimed at creating a safer campus has been given a national recognition from the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association’s Best Practices/Institutional Impact Award.

The association, which has more than 2,800 active members, gave the award to The UTRGV Superhero Project, an active bystander program designed to encourage students to look out for one another.

“We try to educate students on how to intervene in problematic situations,” said Ceilhy Garcia, a Superhero Project peer leader and UTRGV biomedical science major from McAllen.

Those situations can include preventing sexual assault, addressing someone smoking on the tobacco-free campuses, discouraging plagiarism, and helping someone recover from a bad breakup.

“We teach our students that they can intervene, like go up to a certain person and say things directly,” Garcia said. “But if they don’t have the confidence to do those things, they can report it to the resources that we’re providing them.”

It is usually best to not ignore “little hints” pointing to a problem situation, she said, “because all those little hints might be them trying to call for help.

The UTRGV Superhero Project, aimed at creating a safer campus, has been given the Best Practices/Institutional Impact Award from the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association. The project is an active bystander program designed to encourage students to look out for one another. To help spread the word, peer leaders – like Ceilhy Garcia and Mario Flores, shown here – make presentations to groups, host events, partner with other UTRGV departments and participate in events hosted by other organizations. Photo: David Pike/UTRGV

BECOMING AN ACTIVE BYSTANDER

Dr. Douglas Stoves, UTRGV associate dean of Student Rights and Responsibilities, oversees the program.

“The whole reason for choosing ‘The Superhero Project’ was because superheroes just don’t wait. They act,” he said.

“We all recognize when something’s a problem, but it’s doing more than just recognizing it’s a problem. It’s actually taking some action that’s going to benefit our campus community and benefit the individual, as well.”

INCREASING AWARENESS

To help spread the word about the UTRGV Superhero Program, peer leaders make multiple presentations for groups, host events, partner with other UTRGV departments and participate in events hosted by other organizations.

“It’s one thing to come up with a concept. It’s another thing to see it carried out with such vigor,” Stoves said. “One of the things I’m very proud of is that the peer leaders are always looking for how the program can evolve. What’s our next presentation? What’s the next thing?”

Stoves said that sort of dedication is what led to the national award.

“I’m as proud as can be about that,” he said. “For the peer leaders to be recognized for their hard work and all their efforts, it’s just incredible.”

LEADING THE WAY

Stoves and the Superhero Project peer leaders will accept the award in November at the Annual NaBITA Conference and Campus Threat Management Institute in San Antonio.

“This is an opportunity for us to really push UTRGV out as a leader in this area,” he said.

He and the peer leaders also will be speaking about the Superhero Project during sessions at the conference.

“We’re going to put the students right out front, and they can talk about all the ways in which they’re talking to their fellow students,” he said.

Peer leader Garcia said she is proud of the entire Superhero team, and excited because the recognition is a chance to reach more students with information about the Superhero Project.

“There’s never enough that we can do to tell them there are resources here to help them out,” she said.

To learn more about the UTRGV Superhero Project and its upcoming events, visit the program’s website (https://www.utrgv.edu/srr/superhero-project/index.htm) or like its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UTRGVSuperheroProject/).

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