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Friday, April 29, 2005

Mark Schwarze joins UNCP alcohol prevention program

Mark Schwarze has returned to his alma mater to lead an alcohol awareness and prevention program at UNC Pembroke.

Mark SchwarzeSchwarze is experienced with both the prevention and treatment side of substance abuse programs. A 1996 UNCP graduate and a Lumberton native, Schwarze received a master’s degree in service agency counseling from the University in 2004.

He comes to UNCP from the Wilmington Treatment Center, where he was an outpatient services counselor. Schwarze is a certified substance abuse counselor by the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Certification Board.

At UNCP, Schwarze will lead the SPARC grant program (Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences), which seeks to help students make better decisions about alcohol.

The program is funded by a $150,000 grant at five universities in North Carolina by the National Institute of Health 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.

One of two major pieces of the program is to change attitudes about alcohol consumption, Schwarze said.

“There is a perception that everyone is doing it, but the statistics don’t bear that out,” he said. “The majority of UNCP students don’t drink on a weekly basis, according to our 2004 survey.”

Schwarze said changing perceptions is critical to helping students make better decisions.

“The other main purpose of the coalition is to bring together key stakeholders in the community to develop a coordinated program to control alcohol availability to underage students,” Schwarze said. “Alcohol is a public safety and a personal health issue.”

The coalition has developed a strategic plan and has already accomplished many of its interventions, including coordinating with law enforcement in compliance checks of retail outlets that sell alcohol and conducting a social norming campaign on campus.

“Making high-risk decisions affect the public safety of the larger community, but it also affects students academic success and personal goals,” Schwarze said. “We will be looking at policies and working to change attitudes.”

SPARC is allied with area law enforcement, governments and businesses as well as with UNCP student groups, faculty and administration.

Schwarze brings considerable experience to the position. He worked on the Robeson County Underage Drinking Coalition in 2002, as well as other coalitions and committees that have approached social and health issues from an environmental management approach.

A current member of the Addictions Professionals of North Carolina and the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, Schwarze is a past member of North Carolina Teen Court Association and the Robeson County Underage Drinking Coalition.

Schwarze worked for a local substance abuse prevention program, Palmer Prevention, where he was project director and counselor. He also worked as a court counselor for the Southeastern Family Violence Center.

For more information about the SPARC program, please contact Schwarze at 910.521.6580 or email mark.schwarze@uncp.edu.

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