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UNC Peer Support Core opens 2023 mini-grant applications


The Gillings School of Global Public Health is photographed on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.

The Peer Support Core at UNC launched its second year of applications at the beginning of this month for its 2023-24 mini-grants.

The Core is based in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and prioritizes mental health and connection through support groups, collaborations and activities for members of the UNC community. This year, the Core set aside $30,000 to be divided among projects focused on peer support at the University. 

Students, staff and faculty are eligible to apply for the mini-grants. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until May 15, 2024. The mini-grants are federally funded and awarded by the UNC System Office, and in 2022, about $18,000 was divided between 17 proposals.

Patrick Tang, program manager of Peers for Progress and a leader of the Peer Support Core, said only about a quarter of the 2022 proposals were from students, but that the Core would like to see that number increase this year.

“I feel like for student groups, this type of money can go a long way,” he said.

The funding is designed for ongoing activities that encourage social connections, according to the Call for Proposals on the Core's website. This document encourages applicants to submit proposals that serve one or more “high-priority” student groups, including international students, students in the LGBTQ+ community, first generation students and students with disabilities. 

UNC student Zachary Marchun submitted a proposal with the Department of English and Comparative Literature in 2022, which brought former Air Force pararescueman Roger Sparks to campus in April. Sparks spoke in Greenlaw Hall, visited classes and facilitated a larger discussion about veterans reconnecting with civilian life at the Carolina Veterans Resource Center (CVRC).

English professor Hilary Lithgow said ROTC cadets, civilian and veteran students, faculty, staff, community members and even people from out of town attended the CVRC event.

“I think especially that event at the CVRC contributed to a sense of connectedness by giving people a place to openly share moments of disconnect,” Lithgow said.

She also said by being able to safely share vulnerable moments when visitors felt isolated or disconnected from the civilian world, the event fostered a sense of community among attendants. That connection would not have been possible without the funding from the mini-grant, she said. 

Tang said that, as of July 2023, an estimated 1,200 people directly benefited from the previously funded projects.

Another project that the mini-grants funded last year was the UNC biology department’s installation of a whiteboard on the Genome Sciences Building's ground floor. The whiteboard, which will eventually be relocated to the courtyard, is meant to foster a sense of community among students by allowing everyone to use it — whether for studying diagrams or relieving stress with doodles.

“I think this is a great focal point for having a component like this for outreach, for helping bring people together,” associate professor and diversity and inclusion chair of the biology department Kevin Slep, who submitted the proposal for the whiteboard project, said.

UNC Healthy Heels also received a $500 mini-grant in 2022, which funded 900 buttons encouraging conversation and 900 postcards sharing communication strategies. 

A joint email statement from medical student Anahita Gupta, who submitted the grant, and Sara Stahlman, special projects and communication coordinator for health and wellbeing at Campus Health, said the project was “both successful and satisfying” and that they are already drafting 2023’s proposal.

Tang said he suggests students, faculty and staff interested in submitting a proposal reach out to the Core, which is available to discuss proposals before submitting the formal application. Discussion with the Core results in a high success rate for applications, according to Tang, and individuals can submit multiple proposals.

He added that since the grants are small, projects with a modest scope are encouraged.

“We want to facilitate people connecting with each other,” Tang said. “That's the general goal of the grants — to contribute to feelings of connectedness and reduce those of social isolation.”  

@dailytarheel |

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