As the Educational Support Counselor in Student Development at Wilson Community College (WCC),
Kate Kehayes connects students with the resources to support their academic and personal goals. Kehayes began working at WCC as an intern while completing her Masters in Counselor Education at ECU. During her internship, Kehayes helped develop the Early Alert Referral System (EARS), which allows instructors to identify underperforming students for additional outreach by counselors. Working with at-risk students helped Kehayes identify common challenges faced by community college students such as: transportation, hunger, financial insecurity, and mental health. Establishing the Wellness Infusion Initiative (WII) is Kehayes’ way of helping students at WCC overcome some of these challenges.
“With the help of our Wilson Community College Foundation, I successfully applied for and received $50,000 in grant funding from the Merck Foundation that has allowed for the creation of the Wellness Infusion Initiative or WII,” said Kehayes. The financial support allowed the college to create a physical space for the WII in the Student Development Building. Shelving, reusable grocery bags, sports equipment and some marketing materials were also part of the initial set up of the WII.
The WII includes a food pantry and a recreation library. WCC Students can check out sports equipment and refill water bottles. Wellness workshops and online wellness resources are also available. Programs include zumba, yoga and a walking club. The WII is run by student volunteers, many of whom are nursing students at WCC. Since it opened in March 2018, the WII Food Pantry has served 110 unique students, with several students being served multiple times. Many more students have been served through the recreation library and other programs.
The Wellness Infusion Initiative is Kehayes proudest achievement as a professional counselor, but it is unlikely to be her last. She has already met with North Carolina legislators and other community colleges to share what is happening at WCC and explore resources for addressing food insecurity across the region.
Kehayes earned her Bachelors degree in Finance from ECU in 2009 and her Masters in Counselor Education in 2017. Her work with Girls Rock NC, a summer and after school program that teaches girls how to create rock bands, pushed her into counseling as a profession. Kehayes credits her COE professors, Dr. Steve Schmidt, Dr. Allison Crowe and Dr. Phyllis Broughton for helping her discover a career in higher education.