When I first heard about Partners in Prevention in undergrad, I never imagined I would someday be a part of the team that makes it all possible. Healthcare is treatment focused by nature, but prevention is the key to improving health on a broad scale. I believe it’s important to provide people with the right resources so they are able to live a healthy life!
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I have always been very passionate about helping people and pursuing a career in the health field. From a young age the natural path had always been medical school, but I later changed my focus to health administration. I feel this is where I can best use my skills and make the biggest difference.
I began graduate school at the University of Missouri in the fall to pursue a Master of Health Administration. It was a big transition since I grew up in a small town and went to undergrad at a small liberal arts school, Truman State University. Through the Health Science department at Truman, I became very familiar with the CHEERS program. Most Truman students have never heard of CHEERS and those who have don’t utilize it often. I enjoyed raising awareness about this program and its purpose. My experience with CHEERS taught me about the importance of health promotion and the positive impact it can have.
Since starting as a graduate research assistant with Partners in Prevention, my eyes have been opened to a variety of other PIP initiatives. Opioid use is an emerging topic with the current opioid epidemic. I look forward to working on the Opioid Education Project at Harris-Stowe State University and Lincoln University. I have learned so much already and met amazing people through the Wellness Resource Center and the Partners in Prevention Coalition. I am excited to learn more and grow this project so I can make a positive impact in the lives of Missouri college students!
All events begin with someone having the idea and the passion to bring it to life. The St. Louis Collegiate Recovery Community event began when Jay Winig, Coordinator, Drug & Alcohol Service at St. Louis University, and Verne Wilson, Personal Counselor at Maryville University, thought it would be a great idea to bring together local colleges and universities in support of recovery.
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The initial idea was spawned during a get-to-know-you meeting between the two in January 2018. After presenting the idea to Michelle Burns during a Partners in Prevention (PIP) meeting and getting her full support and encouragement, Jay and Verne moved forward. Knowing the importance of timing, they waited until the summer before approaching colleagues about the idea that would hopefully bring together college-aged students in recovery during the fall 2018 semester.
On June 27, 2018, after a St. Louis College Counseling Network meeting, Jay and Verne shared their vision about having a regional St. Louis recovery community. Everyone around the table instantly agreed that bringing together students in recovery around the St. Louis region was an idea worth exploring.
With such a strong interest, we began to establish some general plans. Our first decisions revolved around timing. When would be the best time to host this event? We quickly decided that holding the event in September, National Recovery Month, would not only show support to the month, but would also add an extra element to our marketing that would help us gain awareness. Knowing that Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are often riskier nights, we focused our attention on hosting this event on one of those days at the end of the month in order to give us as much planning time as possible.
Once a tentative date was planned, we turned our attention to establishing goals for our event. What was our purpose? As conversations continued, one theme, our goal, emerged: connection. We wanted to create a space that brought individuals together in our area and that gave them the opportunity to build a stronger recovery network with one another. Our hope was to provide college-aged students the chance to make connections with other students, but to also connect with community resources and supportive campus staff. This goal became the driving force behind our planning.
Jay took initiative to find a location for our event. We wanted a central location that students felt safe attending. Through his work, Jay learned about an organization called Recovery St. Louis which was located near several St. Louis universities. Recovery St. Louis provides a location for both individuals and groups to join together in the spirit of recovery. Jay, along with Amanda Hoylman, Assistant Director, Alcohol and Other Drug Programming, from Washington University in St. Louis, met to tour the facility and they were instantly sold on the location. The individuals running Recovery St. Louis were supportive and eager to help us bring our event to life. In addition, the space was welcoming and relaxing. This was the perfect site for the first St. Louis Area Collegiate Recovery Event!
With the help of the Recovery St. Louis staff, we landed on the event details and finalized our timeline which allowed us to move on to our next task: marketing. Amanda brought all the necessary details together for the initial rough draft of a flyer, but ultimately, Eric Filcoff PIP Graphic Designer, created the final marketing product. Verne worked with Michelle Burns from MACRO to not only create the flyer, but they made hard copies available for individual campus distribution. With a month to go until the event, each university began promoting the event on their campus and to their local recovery groups.
In the weeks leading up to the event, everyone had their own responsibilities. Recovery St. Louis not only provided the space, but they also secured the food for the event which included a variety of beverages, sandwiches, chips, candy, and more.
When the day of the event arrived, Amanda met Stephanie, a Recovery St. Louis Staff member, about 30 minutes prior to the event to help set up. The Recovery St. Louis Staff prepared well and had a wonderful display of food and beverages. Soon, people started to arrive and everyone let out a big sigh of relief! We did it!
Once people started showing up, we had them sign in and showed them around the space. Eventually they grabbed food, sat down, and began casually talking to their neighbors. Jay and Verne helped introduce everyone and brought the group together. Amanda, with the help of her Recovery Coordinator, Elizabeth Sreniawski, planned and executed a fun ice-breaker/get-to-know-you game for those in attendance. While most individuals may cringe at ice-breakers, this one was actually well-received, and it helped get everyone up and talking!
Overall, we had about 20 individuals show up. We laughed, we ate, we heard heartwarming stories of recovery, and we made connections. Our goal was achieved. In the months after this event, we know that students are still connecting through campus recovery meetings, one-on-one conversations, and through community recovery groups. This St. Louis Area Collegiate Recovery Event was a huge success and we hope it is just the beginning to more future collaborations!
This event would not have happened without a team of individuals dedicating their time and skills to plan. Special thanks to Jay and Verne for starting the conversation. Thank you to those brave students who shared their personal stories of recovery, inspiring a new generation of college students. Last, but not least, a huge thanks to the Recovery St. Louis staff for providing the food and for opening their doors to us not only for this day, but indefinitely.
To learn more about Recovery St. Louis, please visit their website at recoverystlouis.com
The coalition at Southeast Missouri State University expressed concerns about the consumption of “jungle juice” or open storage containers of alcohol that may lead to increased consumption of alcohol at dangerous rates. They were concerned that this could be a factor in alcohol poisoning and student transports to hospitals for medical attention.
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Dr. Randy Carter, the Associate Dean of Students at Southeast Missouri State University, worked with our staff to create messages that provided students with information about the dangers of open sources of alcohol, reminders to measure their drinks, and alternatives to drinking jungle juice. According to initial on campus reports, transports for alcohol have decreased this academic year and 3 out of 4 students report seeing the educational campaign in their college orientation class.
Substance use research and prevention has been an integral part of my secondary and post-secondary academic experience. I originally developed my passion for risk behavior research as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where I studied the etiology of risk behaviors in high school students. After I graduated with a B.S. in Psychology, I worked as a Research Coordinator at a risk behavior research lab affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington.
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There I became familiar with the BASICS model of alcohol and other risk behavior interventions, and Motivational Interviewing. After almost three years working as a full-time researcher, I decided to return to school to pursue a M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. I came to the University of Missouri in 2016, and have since completed my M.Ed. and enrolled in the Counseling Psychology PhD program. During my time at the University of Missouri I have researched substance use in sexual/gender minorities.
As a clinician, I work in a community mental health organization that provides free counseling services, and I serve a wide range of clients. Through this clinical experience, and my research background, I have gained an appreciation for prevention science. I have witnessed the personal and financial costs associated with dysfunction that could have been prevented if the appropriate prevention measures were in place. I find it encourage that the University of Missouri encourages prevention research and practice, and I am excited to be a part of this process with Partners in Prevention!
The Missouri Assessment of College Health Behaviors – Athletics better known as MACHB-A is a variant of the Missouri Assessment of College Health Behaviors (MACHB) that is designed to specifically assess the Athletic population of an institution on the topics of power-based violence, mental health, alcohol, and other drugs. Beyond narrowing the scope of the MACHB it also modifies response options to include unique elements of the athletic culture including but not limited to the influence of teams, coaches, and athletic trainers on an individual student athlete’s health and wellness.
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The MACHB-A was designed due to the demographics and influence of athletics at Northwest Missouri State University. Northwest has a small population of athletes compared to the general population and the athletic population was not being captured effectively within the standard MACHB, however, the influence of the subpopulation is vast on the community due to Northwest’s athletic pride. By creating this specific assessment Northwest has been able to shine a light on the dark spot of wellbeing data within Northwest Athletics, allowing for conversations with the Athletic department that would have never happened before. Through these conversations, Athletics is championing training and programming on the topic of student athlete’s health and wellness in an incredible way. The MACHB-A has opened doors and changed student athlete’s lives for the better.
Ever since I was very young I have wanted to change the world. I knew I was not smart enough to do many things but I knew I had big dreams and I hoped that if I worked hard enough I could make them come true. I love what I do but more importantly I believe in what we do. Since I am retiring after over 40 years in Student Affairs I want to leave you with 3 important lessons I have learned over the years.
First, dream and dream big! I am what you would call a daydream believer. I decided early in my career that I wanted to focus on helping students be successful and safe and that it was vital to teach them how to make good choices about all aspects of their health.
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I realized early on that the misuse of alcohol was a huge obstacle to their success so back in 1982 when I was in Residential Life I was able to convince 4 RAs to help me plan Mizzou’s first Alcohol Awareness Week. It was a success and each year after that more students helped me plan another week that a few years later became so big that we turned it into an Alcohol Responsibity Month. And now 35 years later we are still doing an Alcohol Responsibility Month. These events have impacted thousands of students and it all started with a dream and 4 students.
In 1990 I wanted so desperately to have a resource center on campus that dealt with alcohol and drug misuse and other wellness issues so I wrote a grant to the US Department of Education without any experience and we luckily we got it. We started with a small room in the MU Student Center with an 8 foot table, an electric typewriter, a phone and two folding chairs. But we built it from there.
A few years later I realized that there had to be other people on other campuses who were experiencing the same challenges we were. So I dreamed of a statewide prevention coalition where we could all learn from each other so I wrote a grant to the US Department of Education to start Missouri Partners In Prevention. It was a two year grant. So I had to dream of how PIP was going to continue when the grant ended. I was a member of the Missouri Division of Behavioral Health State Advisory Council so I asked early on if they wanted to become a member of PIP. I explained to them that they were doing a great job of K-12 but nothing for higher education. They agreed to attend and were so impressed by PIP that they have funded it ever since. All because of a dream.
The Meeting of the Minds conference was also the result of a dream. I knew that there were many people on campuses across the state that wanted desperately to learn how to better help their students and that they all had expertise that they could share with others. And so we created Meeting of the Minds. The first conference 18 years ago had about 80 folks attend. Now we have over 440 from all over the Midwest come to what many consider to be the best prevention conference in the country.
One of my favorite things to do is to go to movies. I think the best movie of the year was The Greatest Showman. One of the songs in the movie has these lyrics that I love.“Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake.
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”
Please believe in the power of your dreams
My second lesson to you is to be willing to take risks and to never give up. You can’t just sit back and dream you have make things happen. You have to be brave enough to take risks. Try new things, get out of your comfort zone. The bottom line to work really hard and never give up. We need to change the misperception that the world cannot be changed. It will take significant courage on all of our parts to challenge the way things are and to work towards improving the health and safety of our students. The Parkland students who have protested for safer gun laws have clearly illustrated the power of standing up for what you believe.
Over the years I have been the subject of a lot of criticism. I have been a political cartoon in the newspaper and recently the victim of several mean tweets all because I want the bars in Columbia to have safer business practices. Several weeks ago there was a tweet that said and I quote…”Hasn’t anyone learned how to stop Kim Dude!” You know what, I loved it. Their intent was to be mean and to try to get me to quit but to me it just motivated me more. Peter Lake once said, “Sometimes you are going to get spanked for doing the right thing.” I say you do it anyway!
My favorite quote and philosophy of life is “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.” What price are you willing to pay? Another song in the Greatest Showman says…. “Dream with your eyes wide open.” I strongly encourage you to do just that.
My third lesson for you is to realize that everything takes teamwork. I may have been the spark that got Alcohol Responsibility Month going or the Wellness Resource Center or Partners In Prevention or Meeting of the Minds but I promise you none of this would have ever happened without the hard work and dedication of the incredible students and staff I have had the honor to work with over the years. My full time staff, my graduate assistants and my wonderful peer educators. In addition PIP is great because of all the wonderful folks at the 23 campuses who come together every month some driving 4 hours each way to come and share their expertise.
Somerset Maugham once said….”It’s a funny thing about life…if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.” And Walt Disney said…. “It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” I will end with two quotes. The first is from Dr. Seuss who wrote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” And lastly from Kathrine Graham who once said….”To love what you do and know that it makes a difference, how could anything be more wonderful.”
Please know that it has been an honor and a privilege to know you and to dream with you and to change the world with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has been worth the price for these many years and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Over the past seventeen years, I have had the honor of serving as the project director of Missouri Partners in Prevention, my state’s higher education prevention coalition. Over the years of monthly meetings, conferences, technical assistance phone calls, and e-mails, I have gotten to know each of our 23 campuses well and our coalition contact at each campus even better. Recently, upon the retirement of one of our longest-standing coalition members, she shared a heartfelt poem with the group and left a lasting impression. Her words were simple and profound and they spoke to the heart of why those of us who work on statewide coalitions do what we do: the work we do matters and as a group, we are stronger.
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In her parting words, she shared that without the statewide network, she would have never received training on motivational interviewing or BASICS, tools she used daily in her work on campus for over 10 years. She noted that without the data of our statewide assessment, she and her colleagues would never have been able to get support for new programming initiatives or provide data on prevention outcomes to their senior level administrators in times of budget cuts.
Statewide coalitions have the power to transform our college environments by actively involving a combination of campus, community, business, and government agencies to create environmental change. Research has shown that broad involvement in a comprehensive statewide plan is a key component of effective college-based drug misuse prevention.
Statewide initiatives are concerted groups of institutions of higher education, community members, and government officials in a state working to change aspects of the campus and community environment that contribute to high-risk drinking and other drug use. Over half of the states and territories have some form of a statewide coalitions or networks designed to support prevention on campus and affect the state’s drug and alcohol misuse concerns.
Across the nation, statewide initiatives take many forms. In my state of Missouri, our coalition Partners in Prevention is a membership organization with 23 campuses who meet monthly to network and collaborate and receive training on evidence-based strategies to address substance use. The presidents of our campuses sign letters of commitment to implement a statewide assessment and provide leadership for prevention initiatives on campus. Other coalitions across the nation meet virtually or provide training when necessary on relevant topics. While statewide initiatives take many forms, the consortiums often meet monthly or bimonthly for training, perform a statewide assessment, develop advocacy plans, share practices, support each other’s efforts, and learn from each other. In short, the participation in a statewide coalition or network strengthens our campuses and ultimately our communities.
There are many benefits to participation in a statewide coalition. I believe strongly in the mantra, “people support a world they help create”. A statewide coalition provides technical assistance on prevention to our non-prevention colleagues. Statewide coalition trainings allow law enforcement or conduct professionals the chance to learn how their counterparts across the state have contributed to student behavior change. Campuses in our statewide coalition regularly share strategic plans, meeting agendas, peer education resources, and campus policies, all with the guided hand of the statewide coalition staff. By sharing these resources, we allow our campuses to develop best practices that will affect change in student behavior not just on one campus, but also across the state or region.
In a coalition, campuses can take a stand among many, instead of standing alone. Often, this is a key component for administrators who act stronger alongside a group of colleagues or gives an administrator a chance to shine among his/her colleagues. In addition, participation in a statewide initiative fits well with the mission of many of our institutions. Statewide coalitions allow us to share our knowledge with others and fulfill our public service missions.
It is a built-in support group. At many colleges and universities, collegiate alcohol and other drug misuse prevention is left to a singular professional. Sometimes that professional is also balancing work in the health clinic or in residential life. Due to this, working in collegiate prevention can be an extremely isolating professional experience. While other health professionals and student affairs professionals have colleagues they can lean on, those who work in prevention are often the only professionals doing that work on campus. Without colleagues to share resources and provide support in times of high stress or frustration, our colleagues are burning out and lacking in professional development opportunities to learn evidence-based strategies. Statewide prevention coalitions can be life-preservers for our alcohol and other drug professionals. The opportunity to receive technical assistance and share best practices and receive support can be highly motivating and lead to better prevention outcomes.
Statewide coalitions are tremendously powerful tools to help bring about campus and statewide change. In my work, I hear often that our campuses would not be able to achieve their outcomes without the work of a statewide network such as Partners in Prevention. If you are not part of a statewide network, but one exists in your state, I highly encourage you to investigate more about how to join. If you do not have a statewide coalition or network, consider reaching out to other campuses in your local area or state for a cup of coffee to talk about your prevention work. The seeds of statewide coalition work are often planted by the first conversation. Statewide coalitions are not just meetings or opportunities to exchange prevention dos and don’ts. Statewide initiatives transform our campuses, shape our professional experience, and help us engage deeper in our work.
My exposure to prevention work began with a chicken. In the 1980’s, the Missouri State Highway Patrol came into our rural elementary and secondary classrooms to educate us on substance use and misuse. My father just happened to be the trooper in the county who presented Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program, complete with the Just Say No chicken mascot, to my elementary school. Those first experiences with prevention efforts in a learning environment had a profound effect on me through engaging activities and discussions with my peers.
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Today, I continue to strive for the balance of education, relationship building, and engagement situations to create safe spaces for critical conversations, local resources, and recovery opportunities with Partners in Prevention (PIP) and Marvyille Partners in Prevention (MVPIP). The Northwest University Police Department, in the collaboration with the office of Student Affairs and the Northwest Leadership Team, is dedicated to serving with integrity and care while passionately listening and communicating the “why” to develop trust, confidence, and respect. Every student, every day.
I am currently an undergraduate research intern at Partners in Prevention. Ever since I was exposed to research as a freshman, I have loved working in different environments that work towards the pursuit of knowledge. I started out my undergraduate career at Mizzou as a biological science major, and I mainly did research in the area of nutrition and exercise physiology. My interests shifted to public health when I began to think about the feasibility of dietary interventions among different populations.
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My curiosity about the factors that affect an individual’s ability to adhere to certain programs guided me to start thinking about health and health equity as a whole. I decided to pursue this interest by completing a summer public health internship before my junior year. After traveling to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, touring the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and completing a summer of Public Health Prevention research at Johns Hopkins University, my interests in public health were solidified.
I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences with minors in Wellness and Sociology in the spring of 2018. From there, I will be pursuing my Master’s Degree in Public Health, specifically in the areas of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences. Working with Partners in Prevention has provided me with the opportunity to enhance my communication skills and work with large datasets that seek to determine the effectiveness of interventions among college campuses. I have enjoyed my time as an undergraduate research intern, and I am looking forward to spending my last semester at MU as part of the PIP research team.
The reality of our work is that we will never truly see the impact that we have made or the lives that have been influenced as a result of our prevention efforts. Sure, we can look at survey results and show that our risky drinking has decreased or that our students are better utilizing our resources. But what does that really mean? We can’t point to a news clip that highlights how a student decided not to get behind the wheel after drinking with a picture of the two people who were not injured in the car the driver would have run off the road.
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We can’t talk with the family of someone whose friend had taken an Ask. Listen. Refer. course and ultimately saved their life. It is also easy for us to look at the percentage of students who have not changed their behavior and wonder what we are doing wrong. However, it is through involvement with PIP and engaging with amazing colleagues from around the state that I am continuously reminded how important and impactful this work truly is, and I have come to appreciate the stories we will never hear.
As a psychology major with no real career direction, I spent my final semester completing an internship at a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Initially, I enjoyed the work and went home at night believing I was making a difference. But my optimism faded when I began seeing the same familiar faces coming back and still struggling. I was too young to understand that this struggle is often a natural part of the recovery process and I likely wouldn’t see the longer-term success stories. My experience in that setting made me question what could be done to help people avoid reaching such low points in the first place.
Fast forward a few years and I had the opportunity to take on a prevention role for our campus and explore the answers to that question. I was lucky to have amazing co-workers who had the energy and passion to keep building on our program, and the patience to teach me along the way. On top of that, I have been fortunate to be part of the best state coalition in the country! Every year I have left Meeting of the Minds with renewed purpose and faith that our work is vital to student success and does indeed impact the rest of their lives. Even more importantly, I have seen see this reflected in the actions and attitudes of our students who attended the conference and became ambassadors for healthier choices.
I truly believe our work matters! So, I want to take this time to thank YOU for everything you do and hope that you will join me in thanking those who have made a difference on our respective campuses. Here is just a short list of those at my institution: Terri Zeilenga, Molly Borgmeyer, Kim Coke, Emily Pry, Hossam Hashish, Abby McCracken, Landon Parker, Prince Chingarande, Lauren Goldberg, and so many more. And the biggest possible thank you to Joan and Dan and all of the PIP staff. You all are truly amazing and there are hundreds of stories we will never see in the news thanks to your efforts!
My role as the Crime Prevention Officer at the University of Missouri Police Department has allowed a great many opportunities to work with students coming into the college setting. Many times in law enforcement, we deal with the same few individuals and this can cause some cynicism. Being in prevention, being proactive with our students to help address issues of mutual concern, and learning and working with my peers and colleagues in Partners in Prevention has allowed me to refresh my drive for my job.
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I have been part of events with our Counseling Center to help destigmatize mental health, work with our Greek and Residential Life communities to discuss alcohol, drug, and hazing issues, and participate with our social justice centers in programming. My work in prevention has provided me a platform and ability to work with students, faculty, and staff, to be an example of what law enforcement can be, and what we can do to be a resource and part of the community.
I came to Lincoln University 4 years ago as the mental health counselor in the Student Health Center. I didn’t know what to expect and had very little direction. I had worked in the mental health field for years in adolescent alcohol and drug treatment, community psychiatric rehabilitation programs, the director of a medication assisted treatment facility for opioid addiction, and in a maximum security prison. Lincoln was an entirely new experience. Where my professional experience up to my start at Lincoln had been focused on mental illness and addiction treatment, it was at Lincoln that I first was exposed to prevention work.
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I wish that I could say that it’s been easy. It has not. In the climate of university culture, prevention can be very hard work. There are multiple barriers that one can experience. Prevention of alcohol and drug use is highly counter cultural. We live in a permissive society with a cultural affinity for excess. With the legalization of marijuana in many places, it becomes more and more difficult to help people make healthy choices regarding their alcohol consumption. We often experience “blame-the-victim” points of view in our interactions with people when doing sexual and domestic violence prevention work. And the funding climate in universities means that more departments are competing for fewer dollars, and it can feel as though teams that should be working together are undermining one another.
When I begin to experience frustration with these barriers, I go back to a book I read years ago called Start With Why (Sinek, 2009). Sinek (2009) describes how leaders in different industries had one thing in common, they had defined clearly why they were doing what they were doing. When I feel frustrated, I go back to my why. I walk out to Lincoln’s quad and spend time reflecting on the Soldier’s Memorial Statue there. Lincoln University was founded by the Civil War veterans of the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries, some of whom donated up to a full year’s worth of their meager military salary, so that the slaves freed after the Civil War would have an opportunity for education to improve their lives. Lincoln continues this tradition today. We target our recruitment efforts on those areas where students are underserved and lack resources, students that probably would not be accepted into other instutions, to give those who would otherwise not have an opportunity a chance to improve their lives. The Soldier’s Memorial to the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries remind me of my “why”. I have been given the opportunities I needed to climb up on to the pedestal of success. Now I want to offer my hand to those who come behind me, reaching out to help them as I was helped.
These are thoughts that encourage me, and I hope they encourage you, too. When things are tough, frustrating, or you feel like just throwing in the towel, take some time out to remember your why. The work we do as mental health and prevention professionals literally changes lives, including our own.
I have the great privilege of serving as a counselor in The Wellness Center at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. In addition to counseling, we have a number of other opportunities in our office for prevention work that are supported by our relationship with Partners in Prevention. In addition to the funding of initiatives at times throughout the year, our partnership with PIP allows us ongoing education and opportunity to bring our students and faculty training in important topics such as Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), Green Dot, Mental Health Awareness discussions and displays, as well as prevention work related to alcohol, sexual assault, and hazing.
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After the most recent training at PIP we are at work to put together a prescription drug informational event on our campus. While my primary role is as a counselor and I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with students in that capacity, the training and support we receive through PIP allows us to do important prevention work to hopefully get out in front of the many challenges young people face when they come to college. We are grateful for PIP!
Partners in Prevention Graduate Research Assistant
Beginning my journey as a Missouri Tiger with the heart of an Ohio State Buckeye, I am already enjoying being a member of the Partners in Prevention team. Entering college, I could never have dreamed of what my undergraduate experiences as a student-athlete at The Ohio State University would bring to me. Following my sophomore year, the OSU Athletic Department enabled me to intern for the LiFEsports Initiative, a youth development program that serves at-risk Columbus youth and families through education and sport. As a Hospitality Management and Strategic Communication dual degree student, I had little experience in the field of social work and had no intention of working for the College of Social Work’s initiative for two years following my internship. But, I did!
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Following my junior year, I participated in a week-long service trip with an organization called Soles4Souls. With a handful of other student-athletes, I assisted in distributing shoes to school children throughout Jamaica, experiencing the power of a smile and my own passion to serve others. My experiences with LiFEsports and Soles4Souls are indescribable through words, but all I can say is that they led me to the field of social work, which encouraged me to pursue my MSW—ultimately bringing me to the University of Missouri!
I am overjoyed to be back in my home state of Missouri—finally being surrounded by St. Louis sports fans again—and of course to be a part of Partners in Prevention. As a graduate research assistant, I am excited to dive deeper into all of the programs that Partners in Prevention offers and to spread awareness on important topics such as suicide prevention and alcohol awareness—and many more. I am already learning so much and cannot wait to see the tangible impacts of the work that we do here. I know that my experiences with Partners in Prevention will greatly assist me in my approaches to the study of social work and my interactions with everyone that I meet. I am looking forward learning from and building relationships with everyone at the Wellness Resource Center, at the University of Missouri, and across the state of Missouri!
In your mind, take a minute to picture a window that you have seen in the past or dream up one on your own. Now that you have one in mind, think about all the qualities that you admire about that window and jot them down on a piece of scratch paper. Anything you have around you will suffice.
What were some of the qualities that you admired about your mosaic stained glass window? Was it the beautiful colors? Was it the way that millions of pieces have come together to make something as grand and intricate as what you are looking at?
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Or, maybe it is the way that it lets the sun shine through, resembling a beautiful aura and giving you a sense of warmth and peace. Though a peaceful image, are you wondering what this could possibly have to do with life? Let me share with you some of my own personal thoughts and reflections on how the two connect.
Mosaic stained glass windows are made from various pieces of colored glass; glass of all shapes, colors and sizes. Once the artist has decided on a picture they would like to create, they begin to either cut the pieces of glass or piece together fragments already present. From there, the new picture begins to take form. The glass is then painted and the stained glass pieces are placed in a wood-fired oven to allow powdered glass in the paint to melt; causing the paint to fuse permanently to the glass. Unique tools are necessary to assemble the individual pieces into the complete panels that we see and are finalized with semi-liquid cement allowing for the beautiful work of art to then be waterproof.
Like the mosaic, life can feel fragmented and challenging to put together. These challenges may bring you back to the basics and encourage you to rebuild. How you choose to move forward is what can make those difficulties so beautiful. You can pick up the pieces that are left behind and build something incredible, or you can choose to leave them in pieces, wondering what could have been. It is important to remember that creating a beautiful mosaic stained glass window is not a one-person venture. It takes people of various skill-sets and expertise to create the image, develop the pieces needed, provide the unique tools and put the window into place. Similarly, we must be willing to accept help and utilize various expertise and perspectives to create our own mosaic.
None of us are immune to life’s great journey of mountains and valleys. Like the mosaic stained glass window, we can waterproof and strengthen what we build but this does not protect us from all elements or make us shatterproof. We may get dings and scratches along the way. Some may even feel that they are shattered.
Whichever is the case for you, I encourage you to find the special tools and resources that you need to help either restore or rebuild yourself. I encourage you to admire the cracks and differences that have helped bring you to where you are and make you who you are today. I encourage you to give yourself grace for what you have gone through, what it has taken you to get where you are today, and the strength to push through to an even brighter tomorrow. Lastly, I encourage everyone to recognize and seek support and assistance in others when needed.
As public health professionals and university employees, we have the great opportunity to be that same support to a student, a co-worker, a friend, a family member or even a complete stranger. We have the opportunity to create a judgement-free and safe environment that facilitates growth and development. We have the opportunity to extend kindness and grace both to ourselves and others. We have the opportunity to help individuals rediscover who they are and who they want to be. Together, we can provide the strength and empowerment needed to create new and beautiful mosaics.
Coming to the University of Missouri I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I started as a chemistry major, (just to have an answer to the classic question “what are you studying?”) but quickly realized that it was not the right path for me. After a year of taking general education courses I decided to switch to health sciences with the full knowledge that I would never be a doctor or a nurse or anything that required direct patient care. So where did that leave me? I still wasn’t sure, but I was determined to find something that I loved. The first semester of my sophomore year I was lucky enough to find out about a student group of peer educators at the Wellness Resource Center that advocated for healthy lifestyle behaviors, safe drinking strategies, stress and time management, and more. I never would have guessed that this extra-curricular organization would lead me to a future career!
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Two years later I am so happy to be working with Partners in Prevention, covering issues that college students need to talk about. While my job focuses mainly on suicide prevention, safe driving, and prescription drug misuse, I love the opportunity to learn about other topics as the world of prevention expands. I have made great relationships in the Wellness Resource Center and get to use the skills I gained as a peer educator. Prevention can sometimes be an uphill battle, but it makes me feel good to know that the work we do is impacting lives - even if just in small ways - and that students are safer because of it. I look forward to working with each of the 23 campuses and helping tailor our programs and efforts to their needs!
I attended the White House Healthy Campus Challenge Day at the White House on Friday, January 13. It was an honor and privilege to be invited to the White House and be recognized as a White House Healthy campus. There were over 350 higher education institutions that participated in the event and a little less than 60 institutions were recognized as Healthy Campuses. Our group was one of the last invited to the White House as part of the Obama administration.
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The day started off with lots of security checks and networking with other institutions. The live part of the event was broadcasted on www.whitehouse.gov/live, which comprised of welcoming remarks, panel discussion of millennial enrollment trends, presentation of certificates to the White House Healthy Campus Challenge winners, and a panel discussing national organizations and how institutions could partner with them. Valeria Jarret, Senior Advisor to President Obama, also came and addressed our group. The live portion of the event was followed by lunch, more networking, and then time in the White House. While in the White House, our group met the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama was very inspiring, she talked about the future of our country and the hope she has for it. Our group was also given the opportunity to ask Mrs. Obama questions and take some group photos with her. It was truly an honor to attend this special event, meet the First Lady of the United States, and see the White House on an intimate level. Attending this event is a memory I will not soon forget.
Prevention is something I have heard about since walking into orientation as a freshman in college five years ago. Whether it was about bystander, drugs, alcohol, or sexual assault, the information was reiterated time and time again. Of course, it got old, but at the same time, it got old because I actually began to understand why the information was important, how to use it, and the effect that it had on my experience. Without that information, I probably wouldn’t be pursuing a degree in student affairs. I needed prevention to figure out who I was and how I was going to handle myself through college and beyond. Personally, I doubt that I am the only one who believes this when thinking about the kind of role that prevention played while I was in college and continues to play as I continue on to my career.
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When it comes to prevention, it is sometimes difficult to figure out where to start and what role you and your office or department should play. What you need to know that starting anywhere is still a step in the right direction for facilitating prevention education. You can create a social norming campaign using information from the yearly survey we do through Partners in Prevention by sending in a data request to our research team. You can print pre-made bulletin boards and fact sheets from our website for use in your office or in residence halls to share prevention information passively. You can keep brochures we created in different places on campus where anyone can access them or hand them out at different fairs held on campus. You and other members of your department can attend trainings and meetings hosted by Partners in Prevention to educate yourselves to better help others. We offer a wide variety of opportunities and are accessible by phone, email, and through our social media pages. We are a resource that does the difficult part of prevention for you because we want prevention to be happening for our campuses and communities.
Personally, I am a graduate student who is only here for an internship this summer. I believe that every area of student affairs is affected by prevention and that the more knowledge and information that comes out about prevention, the better higher education will be as a whole. When I first started, prevention to me meant, “Just say no”. Now, I understand that prevention is more about providing education so that people feel capable of making the choices that are the best for them and their future. It is not our job to choose for them, but we can make it our job to disseminate information that can affect their perspectives and perceptions of the world around them. I cannot wait to take my what I learned not only back to my institution for the remainder of my graduate school experience, but also to every institution that I work in following my graduation. I understand now how critical prevention is and I cannot wait to engage with the education of campuses and communities I take part in. I hope that you understand the importance of prevention as well and continue to build upon your own prevention knowledge by educating yourself and others throughout your careers.
Alyssa Jo Johnson
Partners in Prevention Intern-Summer 2016
University of Missouri
Graduate Student, Missouri State University