Story by Tamara Tiethoff, News Intern
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M
At one point or another in your Aquinas College career you have probably heard of the Career and Counseling Center. However, whether you have actually checked it out for yourself is another story. If not, I highly encourage you to do so. Recently the Career and Counseling Center has been broken up into different components. The Career aspect of the center has moved to join AQ Advantage Center and the Counseling Center will now focus on counseling, health and wellness, and Substance Abuse Awareness Program (SAAP). According to the Aquinas website, the mission of the Counseling Center is to “provide a safe environment where students can openly express their thoughts and feelings to a counselor who serves as an objective listener.”
“The Counseling Center provides free counseling to students, they handle mental health crises, work with sexual assault victims, provide support for substance abusers, and are also closely tied to many off campus organizations,” explained junior and SAAP intern, Nick Gregory.
Something that not many students know a lot about is the SAAP program. SAAP stands for Substance Abuse Awareness Program. It is a partnership between Residence Life, Campus Life, and Career and Counseling Center that works to educate students on issues outside the classroom. One major thing they are working on is a social norming campaign.
“The main idea with the social norming campaign is to ‘debunk’ the perceived social norms on campus. So on any given college campus, the average students usually THINKS that 80-90% of their peers drink/party, when in reality it’s only 30-40%. Helping educate students to the actual norms on campus reduces the ‘pressure’ to fit into the perceived norms,” said Gregory.
Gregory explained how when he started working for the Counseling Center he realized that the statistics were a lot lower than he expected.
“Other than being able to geek about statistics, I am also excited to start educating our student body on responsible drinking habits so that they can make choices that won’t be detrimental to their health and future prospects,” stated Gregory.
To try and stop drinking and drug use completely would be nearly impossible. Instead, the idea behind the SAAP is to make sure that students are informed about the potential risk factors before they make their decisions.
“Almost every student will be put into a situation at some point in their college career where they will be faced with the choice to drink or not drink. I think that students should have all of their facts so that they will understand the impact of their decision. For example, if the student is underage and they choose to drink, I think it is important that they know there is the possibility that they could be caught by local authorities, who have their own fines and penalties, and their case then gets handed to Aquinas where there is another set of fines and penalties,” explained Gregory.
If a student is caught violating the drug and alcohol policies in place they will have to take a SAAP class. According to the Aquinas website, the class “is not intended to be a punishment, but, rather, a consequence of one’s behavior that does not comply with the policies and the rules of the Aquinas College community and/or the laws or Michigan.”
“The SAAP classes aim to educate students about the local and federal laws, the health effects, and the risks of substance use. I think the biggest things, at least for me, is letting students know that we do have rules for both residents and nonresidents at AQ pertaining to substance use. I think the most important things students need to know is healthy drinking habits, and that they should never be afraid to seek help in an emergency. There are laws that protect intoxicated minors when they seek medical help for themselves or a friend,” said Gregory.
Next time you find yourself in a situation that involves drugs or alcohol, make sure you’re informed about the potential risks and consequences before making the decision to partake in the event. Try to think ahead and make sure that you have a designated driver with you or someone to call in case you need help. Don’t let one night of “fun” ruin your future. I encourage you to take advantage of all of the services offered here at Aquinas College. If you or a friend find yourselves needing or wanting help, don’t hesitate to stop by the Counseling Center located in lower Donnelly.
About the Writer…
Tamara Tiethoff is a nursing major in the UDM/Aquinas program. In the future she hopes to become a neonatal nurse and continue writing on the side. She enjoys staying busy, but in her free time she loves drawing, spontaneous adventures, and coffee shops.