Liz Preston recently discovered what many other Northern Michigan University students have come to realize: that if they present an ambitious idea they want to pursue, NMU personnel will typically lend an attentive ear, support and helpful resources that will increase their chances of making it a reality. Preston, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at 14, wanted to promote Epilepsy Awareness Month on campus and in the community in November.
At the recent hockey game against Lake Superior State, she sold pucks signed by the NMU hockey team for donations to the Epilepsy Foundation and encouraged people to wear purple. She also worked with the NMU Center for Rural Health to offer free seizure training.
“Northern was great; I'm so grateful for everyone who helped me,” Preston said. “I've heard stories from people who have walked from a class, conference or other activity, and just dropped and had a seizure. As someone with epilepsy, I've had some personal experiences where I might have had a seizure and people just weren't sure of what to do. I don't want anyone else to experience things like that.”
This was the biggest reason behind her push. She had strong support from Puck Heads, an organization aimed at engaging students during hockey games. She serves on its executive board. Preston also had help from NMU Marketing and Communications staff, who helped her spread the word across campus about seizure safe training available online.
“Derek [Hall] took it a step further and talked to the campus police department, then we contacted RAs and made campus-wide emails,” Preston said. “Everyone has access to it now. And then he said, ‘You know who would love this? The media.' I've done interviews with WZMQ19, TV6 and Sunny 101.9 about this.”
While there's nothing major on the horizon for Preston after her ambitious undertaking this month, she's still looking for ways to increase awareness about epilepsy.
“I think we can continue to work on this and continue to bring it to Northern,” Preston said. “At the NMU Center for Rural Health training, a dad came up and he said his son was just diagnosed with epilepsy and is getting brain surgery soon. He said they really didn't know anything about epilepsy and that this is like a whole new world for them, but they saw me on TV talking about the training and they decided to come. If this affects one person—giving them resources and giving this community—then it's just all worth it, you know?”
Preston is a senior at NMU who plans to graduate in spring of 2024 with a bachelor's degree in public relations.