She cruises down Caf Lane on her skateboard and flies by the groups of bystanders talking about class, chapel or the weather. But what makes Sammi Mrowka stand out against the crowd of skaters on campus is her black helmet decked out in stickers.
Mrowka started wearing a helmet after a spill on Caf Lane sent her to the hospital to get stitches. To help her feel less self-conscious about wearing a helmet on campus, she created the fictitious “Sammi’s Helmet Club.”
But as time passed, this fictional group turned into a real club at PLNU, where Mrowka is trying to shift the focus from a joking atmosphere to space for serious conversations surrounding the brain.
“I’m still trying to change the narrative of this helmet club…this club isn’t about helmets, it’s about brain health,” Mrowka says. “The helmet is just the mascot.”
This club came to life after Mrowka sat down to talk with theology professor, and now faculty advisor to the Helmet Club, Jon Manning. They saw that she could do some really good things with this club and open up some very important conversations among students and faculty on campus, says Manning.
“I think she’s getting at something with the club that connects to the immediacy of student’s lives, bodies and needs,” Manning says. “And she’s doing it in a very Sammi way.”
Manning and Mrowka talked about looking for ways to network this club and move it away from being seen as a joke. Manning says that he wanted to be the faculty advisor for this club because of the message that they are trying to spread and because he believes that Mrowka’s leadership could help maintain a great club.
During the most recent Helmet Club meeting on February 19, Mrowka created a presentation complete with statistics and information surrounding sleep and how it affects the brain and mental health especially as it pertains to the life of a student. Mrowka says she was excited to have the event and she’s excited for her next event (March 19) where they will be talking about nutrition.
She is using the help of other students on campus like junior graphic design major, Annalee Sasahara, and is looking to partner with other clubs on campus. Sasahara helped create a poster to spread the word about the club and says her inspiration for the poster was based on the club and its leader.
“Her heart is so big and she has so much love for people,” Sasahara says. “I can tell that she really strives to bring people together…she is really fun, so that makes her really approachable.”
Though the club is just starting up, Mrowka is hopeful for its future. She says she will continue to work hard to bring about these tough conversations.
“My main goal with this club is to help bring discussion around stigma around these main topics of sleep, nutrition and safety in regards to college students,” Mrowka says.
Caf Lane may be riddled with students riding all types of boards cruising down the brick pathway, but there really is only one Sammi Mrowka. Just look for the black helmet covered in stickers.