Center Teaches Not Only About Sex Assault, But Also Empowerment

Isabella Morello

The [Not Just] Women’s Center is sculpting the next generation of social justice advocates and leaders within diverse communities. The center (NJWC), located in the Brandt Student Center, is the place where students at Shenandoah University can seek out advice and help, or someone to listen to them after they have experienced sexual violence. Students have the option to utilize this completely free service in order to overcome their experiences and feel heard. The NJWC has 24 work-studies who serve as peer mentors who students can talk to. The center has two main functions: campus-wide education on what sexual consent is and confidential support for victims.

Sarah Celec, the head of the NJWC, describes the center as being a place in which there is no judgment and one in which everyone feels safe. 

“My goal is to be able for students to advocate when they see injustice in the world and be leaders in their communities who can provide solutions and see them all the way through,” Celec said. 

The 24 work-studies that she oversees are students of various majors including sociology, nursing and public health. Working at the NJWC provides work-studies with meaningful experience that they can take with them into their future studies and careers. Leadership and advocacy are the two skillsets that are obtained when working with Celec and victims of sexual violence. 

SU alumni Shelby Jones recalls her time working at the NJWC as being both meaningful and educational. Jones started working as a peer mentor in 2017 and eventually became head peer mentor in 2019-2020. 

“Not only did I learn a lot about myself, but I also learned a lot about mental health, sexual assault, self-empowerment, and advocacy,” Jones said. Jones, a previous sociology major at SU, is now working on her master’s degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University and states that working at the NJWC helped in the development of her professional skills and the ability to attend VCU. 

“I often use the skills and training I acquired while on the job in school,” she said. “For example, I often use trauma-informed care and non-verbal listening skills with my clients now in field placement [in mental health outpatient services].” Jones expressed her gratitude for the center, Celec and all of the knowledge she gained from her time at SU. The NJWC is located on the bottom floor of the Brandt Student Center. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, please feel free to seek help there. Email them at thenjwc@su.edu or call 540-535-3463.

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