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Miami-Dade County’s HIP Brings Positivity to Ferguson

Health Information Project, or HIP,  is a non-profit organization geared towards physical and mental health created in the Miami-Dade area that has spread throughout South Florida. 

The program was founded by Risa Berrin who, due to her background in education, law, and journalism, decided to create HIP to fill the need for a program where students help create healthy environments for and with their peers.

HIP has three parts to it: the peer-led classroom discussion sessions, health resource site, and the campus-wide health campaign.

This initiative was based on the philosophy that students are more likely to take health information seriously if it is delivered to them by their peers rather than adults. HIP specifically targets freshmen to help educate them and make the school environment more inclusive. 

Since HIP is targeted towards freshmen, the program has juniors and seniors lead the classroom discussions. They are known as Peer-Health Educators or PHEs. They are charged with the task of reaching out to students, spreading awareness, and helping to build a stronger community within the school.

HIP’s student-to-mentor format creates a positive and healthy extensive reach for all students. Towards the end of the HIP presentation, PHEs make sure that the students know they can search on the HIP website anything they want more information on, as well as leading a unifying mantra recital towards the end.

Isabella Espinosa, a junior PHE, says “It’s a way I get to interact with the incoming freshmen about daily ongoing issues. HIP has influenced me since my freshman year, therefore I understand the perspectives of the freshmen.”

The PHEs hold bi-weekly presentations with the younger students. They make sure to thoughtfully clarify any concerns the students may have.

“HIP has valuable lessons that many people might not be able to see,” said senior PHE Camar Letts. “It impacted me in my first year because I was in a dark place. I saw I wasn’t alone. Seeing HIP, I felt better about my situation. And to be able to get it at school is very important. If anyone is struggling with anything personal… they can get help and information from this program.” 

Another aspect of HIP is their health campaign. HIP posters are put all over Ferguson to give friendly reminders of advice for school and health issues.

“HIP has taught me valuable lessons and helped me make better choices and assist the people around me, the program is incredibly important. It informs the future generations about issues that they should be aware of and affect them in their day to day basis, as well as helped them find a solution and answers for those who seek it. It makes a great impact in their lives and helps them make healthier decisions in their future. Hearing advice from peers and students helps to see it on a personal level and gets the message to them easier. HIP has personally helped me out a lot,” said HIP President Alessandro Loreno.

HIP has been very successful here at Ferguson and its implication has helped Ferguson become a world-class school. The program is celebrated once a year during March on a day known as HIP Day, where Miami-Dade County officials celebrate the program’s achievements within the community. For more information visit the HIP website at https://behip.org/

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