Elena Prien Scholarship Winners Grow Strong through Well-Being Learning























by Whitney Hopler, Communications Manager

Cameron Hair was sinking in the depths of grief after her long-term boyfriend suddenly passed away. When Hair, who majored in psychology, learned about the Elena Prien Scholarships available through the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB), she applied because “I felt I would be able to greatly benefit from well-being practices to aid in my recovery.” Indeed, she said, she has significantly benefited from winning one of the six annual scholarships sponsored by Prien (a Mason alumna of the Individualized Study program) who also experienced the deep pain of grief when one of her sons died from suicide. Prien’s generosity now has enriched the lives of many students who are recipients of the scholarship.

Another one of those students is Issmar Ventura, who majored in communication and minored in intelligence analysis. He has overcome a wide variety of challenges by learning more about well-being and studying hard at Mason. “I’ve had to overcome financial problems; being a first-generation Hispanic student … becoming fluent in English; going through tough, toxic relationships; … domestic violence problems; alcohol management; low self-esteem; health issues; and many more,” he said. “Despite it all, I still stand strong and will never give up. I’ll be the great reporter I’ve always dreamed [of becoming].”

A distinctive benefit of the scholarships, beyond the $1,000 award to each recipient, is the one-on-one mentoring program. Scholarship winners meet regularly with someone from Mason’s faculty or staff who has well-being expertise and commits to building a supportive relationship with the student to whom he or she is matched. “What I enjoy most is that I have a personal mentor now who I can talk to about my well-being and set goals for myself,” said Ventura.

Hair said that her mentor’s advice to be patient has been especially helpful. “If something bad has happened to you, especially something traumatic, you cannot expect recovery to happen overnight. Instead, it can take months to years to fully recover. In this instance, the journey is just as important as the end goal.”

Exercise, another well-being practice suggested by her mentor, is also useful. “I run about three to four times a week as well as stretching exercises,” she said. “I have found working out to be a great opportunity to not only strengthen my body, but to clear my mind and put myself in a peaceful and relaxed head space.”

Ventura said he tries to incorporate a wide variety of well-being practices into his life, from exercise and spirituality to building healthy relationships with family and friends.

Hair also tries to practice well-being in every part of her life. “After winning the scholarship, I have learned about how taking care of myself encompasses a lot of different areas, including my mind, my body, and my spirit.”

Both Hair and Ventura encourage other Mason students to pay attention to well-being in their own lives. “Taking time out of your day to work out or practice mindfulness techniques may sound difficult, as we all as college students have such busy schedules,” said Hair. “However, if you take just a little bit of time each day to look inwardly and focus on self-improvement, you will find yourself better able to handle stressful situations in the long run.”

Ventura advises: “I want to tell other students that there’s a very important balance that we must all keep in our lives” to experience well-being. “… never settle for less,” he adds, “because we can only be well if we choose to be and only we have the power to do so!”