Hilda Firempong Empowers Students’ Health and Wellness Journeys

Hilda Firempong Empowers Students’ Health and Wellness Journeys

As the Wellness Program Specialist at Northeastern University in Toronto, Hilda Firempong recalls a memorable encounter with a first-year student. The student was grappling with academic pressures and uncertainty about managing their commitments. Hilda’s expertise came to the fore as she guided the student to reflect on their values, reassess their goals, and redefine their path to success. This transformative process allowed the student to integrate wellness into their educational journey and helped them achieve more than they thought possible.

It also underscores the profound impact of Hilda’s role.

“At Northeastern, we are very big on innovation, discovery, experimentation, and experiential learning,” Hilda says. “If students are too stressed to focus in class, they can’t actually be part of our rich learning environment. They will fill an attendance requirement but won’t maximize the investment they are making in their education. My role, in a nutshell, is to ensure students can engage academically and succeed.”

“There is no one size fits all in health and wellness.”

Northeastern University Toronto’s Wellness Offerings 

To support students’ well-being and health, Hilda conducts private consultations and plans and facilitates university-wide programming. She also ensures students have equitable access to various university and local community resources. Northeastern’s approach, she says, focuses on the eight dimensions of health and wellness: emotional, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and financial.

“There is no one size fits all in health and wellness,” she says. “When students come to a one-on-one, I tell them it’s a safe space, and there are no judgments. They are there to be heard, seen, and validated. I also give students the chance to map out what they value in their wellness journey.”

While referrals to external community organizations or internal university resources cater to individual needs, on-campus initiatives are inclusive. Hilda has successfully implemented Zumba, yoga, and dance classes with professional instructors, workshops, and a speakers’ series. Past events have included skincare and nutrition workshops and presentations by a psychotherapist and a financial literacy expert. All programming is free, making it accessible to everyone.

“In academic spaces, there can be a lot of pent-up energy that has no place to go,” Hilda says. “Our movement programs give students the opportunity to release it. Our workshops and guest speakers have allowed students to grow their skill sets.”

In addition to the current wellness offerings and initiatives, Hilda is working on wellness integration across the campus. She hopes to foster partnerships with faculty to comprehensively introduce wellness into the classroom, ensuring students receive a holistic education.

A Personal Journey Combining Wellness and Education 

Years of experience back Hilda’s passion for helping students incorporate health and wellness into their academic lives. Having completed a Bachelor of Health Studies and Sociology and a graduate certificate in Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion, Hilda has worked with numerous post-secondary institutions across the Greater Toronto Area to shape the student experience. As a community standards officer, she has also overseen the student conduct and behaviour management process. While Hilda previously worked with undergraduate students, mostly in a residence setting, she says the opportunity to engage with grad students has been rewarding.

“The more I learn, the more I can serve students. My role is to listen, and they have the agency to choose to engage with the programs I suggest. It’s all about offering choice.”

“Grad students have well-developed health behaviours,” Hilda says. “With our programming and initiatives, it has been rewarding to see how students implement our wellness programming into their routines to care for themselves so they can continue to be great. It validates why I do what I do.”

Health and wellness also play an essential role in Hilda’s personal life. As a busy professional, wife, and mom of three, Hilda defines health and wellness as her capacity to pursue opportunities rather than the absence of disease or disability. She even incorporates some of the same strategies she recommends to students.

“People with chronic illness and different abilities still have the ability for wellness,” she shares. “For me, it’s my capacity to pursue the opportunity to rest, play, travel, work, and engage in meaningful relationships. I practice mindfulness and affirmations, which is one of my tips for students because many of us walk around with imposter syndrome. For my spiritual wellness, I pray. I get deep tissue massages because I store tension in my shoulders. And I dance, especially with my kids.”

On April 7, Hilda and the rest of the world will observe World Health Day, an opportunity to focus global attention on a health issue that deserves special attention. This year’s theme, “My health, my right,” aims to champion the right of everyone, everywhere, to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

It’s a theme to which Hilda can relate, as she has encountered inequities in the healthcare system. The experiences, she says, serve as a constant reminder to apply an empathetic, human-first approach to her work.

“I don’t know everything about a student’s health beliefs or their perspective on their current state of wellness, but I’m willing to learn,” she says. “The more I learn, the more I can serve students. My role is to listen, and they have the agency to choose to engage with the programs I suggest. It’s all about offering choice.”

Click here to book a time to meet with Hilda and learn about other Student Support Services.

By: Izabela Shubair

Connect with Us!