Student organization elevates students with benevolent citations and grades

Students participated in “random acts of kindness” at the self-esteem project event on the way to class. (Melissa Chen | Daily Trojan)

Students walking through Trousdale on a hot Thursday afternoon may have come across an unexpected little wellness oasis near Tommy Trojan.

A new student organization, the Self-Esteem Project, encouraged students to uplift each other by writing positive posts.

Founders Maryanne Aziz and Patricia Gerges became friends during their first semester at USC and started the Self-Esteem Project because they agreed on the need for a supportive and self-supporting community. built openly and a safe space for students to embrace imperfection and be honest. each other. While adjusting to USC, they connected through shared experiences and observations of student life.

Aziz, a freshman majoring in health sciences, noticed the incredibly high standards the students hold themselves to and the inevitability of failure in such an environment.

“[USC students] strive to be perfect, but, again, it takes a lot to be perfect,” Aziz said. “It’s hard for people to realize that it’s okay not to get it on the first try.”

Gerges, a junior health sciences student, said her motivation to start the organization came from an awareness of how social media fosters an obsession with perfection and creates a negative culture of comparison.

“When I go on Instagram, I see all these people going to USC… They seem to have perfect lives, perfect bodies. They’re having fun; they’re getting good grades; everything’s perfect for them. It feels like they live in this perfect world, where I feel like I don’t live,” Gerges said.

Gerges acknowledged the illusions many of his peers try to maintain and the struggles they feel compelled to cover up.

“I love psychology and I love talking to people about mental health and vulnerability,” Gerges said. “When I talk to people, I realize that we all struggle that way, but no one is ready to have that conversation.”

Thursday’s event was the first for the Self-Esteem Project. The organization set up a table between the student union and Tommy Trojan that included colorful pens, note cards, candies and frozen yogurt and invited students to stop for a few minutes to perform an act of kindness at the coincidence. Passers-by received uplifting quotes on slips of paper and wrote positive messages that the Self-Esteem Project later passed on to other students. The group also gave away candy and cups of frozen yogurt at the event.

Hulbert Dang, a second-year health promotion and disease prevention student, participated and said he was touched by the reminder of the self-care event.

“A lot of students are stressed out about studying and forget about their mental health,” Dang said. “It’s a great way to relieve stress.”

Patricia Garcia, a graduate student in product development and engineering, also appreciated the event’s positive message and the opportunity to impact another student.

“You don’t really get stopped by every day and someone hands you a positive note or a positive affirmation,” Garcia said. “I hope whoever reads my note that I wrote will have a positive impact on their day.”

Within an hour, dozens of students stopped by the table to learn about the self-esteem project and write an uplifting message.

Anthony Khoory, a junior sociology student, oversees the logistics of the self-esteem project. From his conversations with his peers, he realized that students are sometimes “turned off to care for each other,” which contributes to feelings of isolation at USC. He said the Self-Esteem Project seeks to strengthen a culture where people come together around a shared respect and love for one another.

Khoory said that by providing students with the opportunity to write positive messages to each other, the event captures the heart of the Self-Esteem Project: the belief that every person has dignity and deserves care.

“Some people have different ways of explaining their self-esteem,” Khoory said. “A walking person who comes into contact with us could really see the whole trajectory of their day changed because of their interaction with us.”

As the organization continues to grow, Aziz and Gerges said they envision the Self-Esteem Project growing in two main directions. First, they plan to host weekly talks and invite guest speakers, including professionals and experts, to explore topics such as meditation strategies and building healthy relationships with your body.

The Self-Esteem Project also hopes to expand to the South Central region in the future, allowing USC students to propose their own projects and become mentors in the community by hosting presentations or workshops with middle and high school students on self-esteem and comparison of social media.

“Just because you don’t fall under societal standards of looking perfect or getting perfect grades or having a social life or whatever, doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. of love,” Gerges said. “Every person is worthy.”

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