Family and consumer sciences students bring relationship advice to Martha O'Bryan

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Usually it’s college students who find themselves in need of advice on their love lives, but this spring students in the department of Family and Consumer Sciences provided their own advice on “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk” to women much older than they at the Martha O’Bryan Center, a nonprofit social service center serving families and youth living in the low-income James A. Cayce Homes.

Each spring Family and Consumer Sciences seniors are required to present some sort of public educational program, which is often the Lipscomb Conference on Family Wellness, said department chair John Conger. This year, thanks to a connection with Danielle Sager at the Martha O’Bryan Center, students were given the opportunity to work with 10 students enrolled in a relationship education class at the center.

“Our students loved it much better than the conference,” Conger said. “They made personal relationships with the participants in the class, who really seemed to relish the class discussion and getting to know the students.”

“I try to bring in different education and empowerment opportunities for the parents of students in our after-school, at-risk program,” said Sager, parent coordinator at the Martha O’Bryan Center.  “A lot of our parents that we work with have had failed relationships, so this is a good way to learn how to have healthy relationships or to build on the ones they have.”

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FCS students Claire Corley (far right) and Chelsey Piper (far left) with a class participant.

While it might seem strange for a young adult to be giving relationship advice to older women, the students were well-trained, and the participants in the class were so excited to learn they made the Lipscomb students feel comfortable, Conger said.

“I thought it would be weird before I got there and actually presented,” said Faith Fallin, a senior from Mt. Juliet. “But after we got started with the presentation everything flowed nicely. Even through such different economic circumstances, we found plenty of things to agree on concerning relationships.

“The ladies were incredible and such good students who always gave good feedback. I enjoyed hearing things from their point of view,” Fallin said. “I learned to look at things not only through my own eyes, but also to see things from their perspective.“

“Having the Lipscomb students come made the participants feel more comfortable, because they don’t feel like they will be judged. We can all learn from each other,” Sager said.

Last spring, the presenting students were trained in a marriage and relationship curriculum when John Van Epp, author of “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk,” visited campus for a training. The curriculum at the Martha O’Bryan classes explored topics such as the importance of finding things in common with your partner, why opposites attract, finding strengths in each other, the importance of fun and date nights in a marriage, the importance of laughter, exploring past relationships and making sure both partners want the same things in life.

Seniors Clare Corley, of Huntsville, Ala., and Chelsey Piper, of Nashville, covered commitment at the final class of the series in late March. Participants in the class celebrated with a dinner, cake and the presentation of completion certificates.

Corley and Piper asked the participants questions like, “Why do people stay in unhealthy relationships?” “Why is commitment in marriage different from living together?” and “What are some of the benefits of marriage?”

They presented plenty of statistics on marriages that work and relationships that don’t. The women discussed security, fear, trust and forgiveness.

Also this past March, the students made a presentation about their experiences teaching the class at the Lipscomb University Student Scholars Symposium.