Doctors from the IU School of Medicine teamed up with IUB students this month to present a drug and alcohol prevention program at Zionsville High School.
The workshop, titled Rachael’s First Week, is designed to help high school students cope with the transition into college and communicate the challenges they may face during their post-secondary education.
“We feel that college- bound students are not aware of the significant challenges that this new social environment can bring,” Alex Rhea, coordinator of Rachael’s First Week, said in an email.
Participants watched a short video documenting Rachael’s senior year of high school and the summer before she was to attend IU. Doctors and college students then led the participants in a discussion regarding safety and the resources available to use in an emergency.
“By conveying real life experiences from current college students and medical relevance from resident physicians, we hope to prevent tragedies, like Rachael Fiege’s death, from occurring,” Rhea said.
Angela Fiege created the program after her daughter Rachael’s death, an IU freshman who lost her life in an alcohol-related fall last year. The program was debuted at Rachael’s former high school.
“A lot of the students knew Rachael personally, so the presentation hit very close to home for them,” Rhea said.
“Their honest questions let us know how important this message was and how little preparation students get for the challenges of the new social environment of college.”
On average, Indiana students begin drinking at the age of 13, according to the 2013 Indiana Youth Survey, a voluntary questionnaire taken by Indiana students from sixth to 12th grade.
Upon entering IU, many students view the college experience as an opportunity to go wild, Mallori DeSalle, outreach coordinator at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, said.
“They see it as a bubble, where they can do anything and experience everything, and it will have no long consequences,” DeSalle said.
“Though that’s not necessarily the truth. Not everyone does that. I think that many young people believe that everyone treats it the same.”
OASIS, an information center designed to help IU students with drug related issues, utilizes prevention strategies such as motivational interviewing to empower students to make their own decisions regarding their consumption of drugs and alcohol.
“I talk to students a lot about living intentionally and not just passively,” OASIS Director Jackie Daniels said.
“So, if they’re intentionally living in college, that means that they are making decisions about what they want to accomplish in college, instead of coming on campus and going with the flow.”
Next year, Rachael’s First Week will aim to expand to other high schools in the Indianapolis area. Rhea said he hopes students who participate in the workshop come away with the importance of caring for others.
“No matter the dangers of alcohol or any other challenges college students have, we need to make sure that students know the importance of watching out for each other,” Rhea said.
“If a student is worried about a situation or a friend, they should know they have resources that are available to them to make sure we don’t have another tragedy like Rachael’s death.”
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