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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
University Newswire
 
University Newswire
PO Box 1510
Pembroke, NC 28372-1510
Date: March 15, 2004
Contact: Amber Rach
Email: amber.rach@uncp.edu
Phone: 910.521.6863
Fax: 910.521.6694
 

UNCP begins program to combat student alcohol abuse

Jennifer SmithIn eight years of working in substance abuse counseling, Jennifer Smith has seen the negative outcomes of alcohol abuse.

As UNC Pembroke's new alcohol awareness program coordinator, Smith will have the opportunity to jump in on the side of early prevention.

"What excites me about this program is that it is a proactive strategy, targeting prevention at a critical stage in the lives of young people," Smith said.

Smith comes from Southeastern Regional Mental Health Center to UNCP, where she will launch a program aimed at high-risk drinking among students. The program, entitled SPARC (Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences), is funded at five universities in North Carolina by a National Institute of Health grant through the Wake Forest University's Bowman Gray School of Medicine.

The universities - Duke, Western Carolina, UNC Greensboro, Appalachian State and UNCP - are a testing ground for the prevention program, which seeks to change the environment surrounding high-risk alcohol use by college students.

"Our wellness surveys show that UNC Pembroke is about the same as the national standard as far as alcohol use is concerned," Smith said. "What is unique about the program is that few campuses have one staff member whose only mission is to combat alcohol abuse."

George Gressman, Assistant Director of UNCP's Office of Counseling and Testing, applied for the $150,000, three-year grant.

"Not only do we have one person devoted full-time, but for the first time we have a specific budget for alcohol awareness programs," Gressman said. "This program is about environmental change."

Smith will form a broad coalition of "stakeholders" at the University and in the surrounding community. The coalition may include fraternities, sororities, student government, faculty, staff, merchants, churches, local governments and law enforcement agencies.

"These are the people and groups who deal with high-risk behaviors," Smith said. "Our first objective is to promote positive social norms, and our second goal is to reduce the availability of alcohol."

High-risk behavior is defined as binge drinking and drinking and driving or engaging in other dangerous activities. Smith said that changing culture is "a lofty goal" but a worthy one.

"We work to be a change agent for a culture," she said. "This is a vulnerable age, especially for freshmen who may be away from home for the first time and have a lot of freedom."

"It's a freedom to make bad decisions, but it's also freedom to make good decisions," she said. "I am very optimistic that we can make changes."

Smith has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Science and an Education Specialist degree in counselor education, all from UNC Greensboro. She is an Asheboro native.

For more information about SPARC, call (910) 521- 6202, Ext. 6580.

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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Updated: Monday, March 15, 2004
Copyright © 2001-2004 The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
University Newswire
PO Box 1510
Pembroke, NC 28372-1510
Phone: 910.521.6863
Fax: 910.521.6694