Drug and Alcohol Awareness Day was an event held at Naugatuck Valley Community College in October. The event was sponsored by the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division and the Recovery Society. The event featured booths representing various drugs including tobacco, cocaine, and heroin. At each booth were students from the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor Program (DARC). This gave the DARC students firsthand experience into their future goal of becoming addiction counselors.
The event was meant to help the NVCC students learn about the dangers of drugs and the effects of drugs on their bodies, and effects on their families. Although the event was very serious, there were light hearted moments at some of the booths. The guests were able to appear in an incident simulation which laid out various scenarios about drinking and driving. The simulation featured outcomes of these events including financial loss, personal loss and criminal issues. Guests of the event also had the opportunity to put on Fatal Vision. Fatal Vision are goggles that re-enact being drunk. NVCC security guards would put the students through sobriety tests including walking a straight line.
During the event, I had the chance to meet Dr. Sandra Valente, the coordinator of the DARC program and advisor to The Recovery Society. You could see the excitement on her face throughout the whole day. After speaking with Dr. Valente, I could understand why she was so excited. This event was her baby. She envisioned putting on an event like this since she first became the program coordinator. While she hopes to put this event on at NVCC every year, she hopes to be able to bring this event on the road to high schools. A local YMCA has even stated they could do a similar event at some point for teen night.
Some goals Dr. Valente had for the event included the most obvious goal of all, to develop awareness of substance abuse issues in general. She also hoped to have students learn the effects of different drugs and the abuse on the body, family, community, and health, and to provide information about treatment and options for recovery. Another goal Dr. Valente had was to help students indentify if they had any abuse programs themselves. The way she went about this was having a booth set up at the entrance to the event where the only purpose was to provide confidential surveys that would indicate to the student whether or not they had a problem. This survey may have been an eye opener for some, and if so, they had the opportunity at the event to ask questions about whichever drugs they had a problem with.
I contacted several students who were working booths at the event to ask them about their experiences. Sophia Gomes “was shocked to see so many people because the event was about drugs and alcohol, and I assumed that people would have the mind set of ‘drugs are cool,’ but I was wrong.” Stormy Davis, a disabled veteran said that an event like this was something this school was in need of and should have, “maybe at least one every term.” Davis also said that being in the DARC program would hopefully lead him to his goal of working with homeless veterans. He mentioned that, “200,000 homeless vets are on the streets of our cities…soon the same is going to happen to those young men coming back from these latest wars.”
The DARC program is an incredible asset to NVCC. With only its second class graduating in the spring, the impact this program can have on the community has no limits. Gomes, who wants to work in detox, or as a high school social worker said, “I want to give back to the community…teens need support around that age.” Those are the same sentiments that can be felt across the board no matter who you ask. Students like Davis and Gomes are needed to help make sure our teenagers stay clean and out of harm’s way.
Students were encouraged to go to every booth for information on those drugs. Every booth they went to, they received a sticker, and with 8 stickers, they were able to get a lunch. Throughout the day 30 boxes of pizza were brought in to feed the students. Over 300 pieces of pizza later, the event went off without a hitch. The pizza incentive was a nice touch to this wonderfully put together event. In my time there, I witnessed a women looking to join the recovery society. Without this event, I don’t know if she would have found them.
Many thanks need to go out to the Public Safety staff that ran the drunk driving simulation continuously throughout the whole event. The maintenance crew and IT department also need to be commended for the work they did in helping make the first Drug and Alcohol Awareness Day at NVCC a huge success. Dr. Valente said, “I am very happy with the outcome of this event as it stemmed from the DARC program, and supported one of the visions that I have for the program as an agent for educating others about the problems and dangers associated with drug and alcohol use and addiction.”
For more information on the DARC program, or on how to join the recovery society, please contact Dr. Sandra Valente at firstname.lastname@example.org.