Sydney Snow has taken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) by storm. Since receiving her certification in July 2023, Sydney has swiftly transitioned from a new Instructor to a guiding light within the MHFA community, teaching four classes with a blend of passion and prudence. Her early and vigorous dedication to teaching immediately distinguished her. It was her gusto that inspired us to delve deeper into her journey, understand her approach and share her unique insights as both encouragement and guidance for other Instructors.
Sydney’s Dedication to MHFA
As a mental health program specialist for DCCCA, Inc. in Oklahoma, Sydney is on a mission to create a supportive environment on a college campus, addressing mental health and substance use challenges head-on.
Reflecting on her dedication, Sydney explains, “As a current graduate student, I also know how difficult it is to manage academic stress and the toll it can take on overall health. I am excited to be involved in creating a supportive environment for anyone on campus who is experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge and helping them find a pathway to wellbeing.”
A Foundation of Support
At the heart of Sydney’s success lies a robust support network including her organization, DCCCA, and her supervisor, Mimi Castro, which has been instrumental in Sydney’s blossoming as an Instructor. Mimi, a seasoned MHFA Instructor herself, provided Sydney with invaluable guidance, from co-instructing her first class to offering nuanced insights on audience engagement. This mentorship, coupled with the expertise of her dually certified colleagues in the Adult and Youth MHFA curriculum, provided Sydney with a robust support system, allowing her to translate the curriculum into impactful learning experiences.
“I’m lucky to be surrounded by experienced and encouraging Instructors. It has been helpful to have mentors who could walk me through the different activities and how to teach the curriculum in a way that really resonates with participants,” shares Sydney.
Preparation and Evolution in the Instructor’s Path
For Sydney, preparation for her first MHFA class was twofold: ensuring a trauma-informed approach to create a safe learning environment and mastering the logistics of course delivery. Despite initial nerves, her commitment to the material and the co-instruction format of her first virtual class laid a solid foundation for success.
Sydney’s preparation for her first class was rooted in creating a trauma-informed environment, coupled with a strong grasp of the course logistics. Opting to co-instruct her inaugural virtual class, she took her first steps in a format where she felt most confident, setting the stage for a successful teaching journey.
Sydney describes the completion of her first class: “I felt excited and relieved. Once you get past the initial nerves, MHFA is such a fun course to teach. I love seeing participants connect with the material and interact with each other as the day goes on. They become more confident in what they have learned.”
This defining moment highlighted the transformative power of MHFA education and solidified Sydney’s passion for teaching. As Sydney continued to teach, her methods evolved, allowing her authentic self to shine through and fostering a deeper connection with her students. She found that integrating humor and open dialogue, while always remaining true to the serious nature of the subject, created a stronger learning environment that kept participants engaged and interested.
In every class, Sydney tailors her engagement strategy to meet the unique needs of the group before her, exemplifying the flexibility and adaptability that are hallmarks of an exceptional Instructor. Her interactive approach empowers participants to apply their newly acquired skills within their roles and communities.
Sydney aims to delve into community-specific courses next, with a particular interest in enhancing her ability to connect with various groups on campus. Her long-term goal is to foster a common understanding of mental health and substance use through MHFA training, creating a unified language of care and support throughout the community.
Words of Encouragement
To new MHFA Instructors, Sydney offers reassurance: “It is completely normal to be nervous your first time instructing! Embrace the nerves, focus on what you can control and let experience be your guide. Each class is a step toward realizing the profound difference you can make in someone’s life.”
Sydney’s story is a testament to the power of dedication and the impact one person can make. Not only has Sydney risen to the challenges of a new Instructor with remarkable poise, but she’s also an inspiration to others. She shows that, with the right support and commitment, each of us can become an influential force in mental health education.