Krystal Murillo is a student and Active Minds Chapter Member at Mount San Jacinto College in Menifee, California. Over the last year, Krystal has been successful in advocating for the addition of a health center to her campus.
In the post below, we feature excerpts of a conversation between Krystal and Active Minds Associate Director of Training and Education, Maggie Bertram. To hear the audio version of this story, you can head over to the Active Minds SoundCloud page.
Maggie Bertram: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Active Minds?
Krystal Murillo: So, I am hopefully within my last year at a community college. I was a transfer student. I was new. And I remember I was in my psychology class, actually, and I had someone come and ask me, like, “do you—you know—are your part of any clubs?” And I remember being like, “Well, no, but I want to check out the Psychology Club. Um, ‘cause, you know I’m really into mental health and, you know, learning more, and getting involved.” And this person was like, “Well, have you heard of Active Minds?” And I was like, “No, actually. What do you do?” They were getting ready to have all the volunteers [at Send Silence Packing], and that right away caught my attention, so I just stuck with it.
MB: You mention advocacy, and that’s originally why we got connected was to talk about this huge advocacy effort that you’ve been successful in. Do you want to tell me a little bit more about that?
KM: So, the idea to get a health center on MSJC actually originated from past colleges I had attended. I attended two previous colleges before transferring. And just for me, personally, I wanted to make the transition smoother by talking to someone and reaching out. So I remember going on campus and asking students, you know, “Where’s the health center?” And some were like, “I don’t know, actually,” and I was like, “Ok, you know. Whatever. Sometimes you just don’t know where things are. And I remember going [to ask] another student, and I was like, “Where’s the health center?” And they were like, “Oh, do you mean the nursing building?” And I was like, “Yeah, if that’s where your health center’s at.”
Um, and I went in and they were like, “Oh, this is only for nursing students.” And I was like, “Oh, so you don’t actually have a nurse, or maybe like a counselor, or anything like that?” And they were like, “You know, I don’t even think we do!” And I was like, “Oh. OK—cool.” So, I kind of walked away with like—what do I do? You know? Like, who do I talk to–to make it better?
MB: So from those initial conversations where you established that there really wasn’t a health center, what did you do next in order to get people’s attention?
KM: I was pretty clear to both my English professor and my psychology professor. I was like: I think it’s something we need. And they highly agreed. And, um, so they were like, “You know what? Let’s do something about that.” And I was like, “Yeah! Help me!” So it was really cool to have that resource and use them as far as them connecting with other people.
And I remember it was during office hours with my psych professor, and was like, “You know, I’m going to shoot everyone an email and just say: this is what we’re thinking, who’s on board? Let’s make it happen.” And I was like, “Ok,” you know. I thought it was no big deal, but then I realized he meant, like, the entire school as far as faculty. So, he got a lot of great responses, and then we, you know, we didn’t know how to go about this, of course. Um, so we created a committee who agreed that we needed it, which included different instructors, different deans from all departments. Um, so just a lot of great teamwork put it together, reached out to the vice president for student services who was like, “You know what? Let’s do this,” and we headed into it.
It started with small meetings once or twice a month. It was just a group of us in a room talking about: What do we do? How do we get this started? You know, we sort of formulated a plan as to what I can do as far as students, and I researched other colleges that have health centers and their resources. And I remember putting together a survey just to see the need and demand for [the health center]. We got someone from the research part of the school to distribute the surveys out to students who then took the survey and listed exactly the services they wanted to see. Um, and then we went ahead and hired a consultant, I believe. Her and her husband came and they were really good about helping us financially establish, you know, how much things are going to cost, how to get different equipment, and things like that. How to go about hiring.
As we got all that and kind of got our ideas straight, we had to present to the board of trustees for the school. So, you know and I spoke and basically said again my reason for wanting this and how important it was.
MB: You must have done a lot of research in order to track down everything that peer institutions were doing, and, like you said, how much everything costs, and getting the consultant in there. That must have been quite a process on top of all the school work you were already doing.
KM: It was definitely worth it. I felt motivated and driven to do it. I didn’t see it as, like, “Oh, gosh. This is one more thing I have to do.” I thought, “This is exciting! This is going to be really good if this could actually happen.” Even if I don’t get to experience having the health center there, I’m excited that other students who are coming get to.
One of my mentors I have who I work for now in the counseling department—at the start of this I was like, “Well, where do you—how do you even start this? What do you do?” And I remember her telling me, “You’re a student and only you can make a difference. You and other students are the only ones who can make this happen because if we say anything, it’s not going to be as impactful because we’re not students. You guys need to be insisting on any issue and making it happen.
MB: What advice would you give students who are preparing to do something like that?
KM: Um, to be honest, you know I would say find a level of support whether that’s with peers, families, instructors—anybody. Definitely have a support system and just, you know, be confident and remember what you want as far as like why it’s so important for you to get something done. And just speak out and voice your opinion over it.
If you’re interested in making significant change on your campus like Krystal did, go to www.ActiveMinds.org/Transform to access Transform Your Campus. There you’ll find resources to aid your advocacy efforts, including our featured campaigns on ID cards, orientation programming, and leave of absence policies.