For students who have retired from the party scene and have entered into a world of recovery, college can be difficult to navigate.
College can be a pivotal time in one’s life. For many, it can be the focal point for teenagers and young adults to transition to adulthood. Partying, Football, and Greek-life is what most think of when they picture a thriving social life on a College campus. However for some, it’s exactly that type of atmosphere where vulnerability rises and addiction problems peak. For others who have retired from the party scene and have entered into the world of recovery, College can be difficult to navigate.
Luckily, Universities throughout the United States have taken note of this issue and have taken action on what once seemed to be a novel idea – school recovery programs. On an average day during the past year, of the 9.0 million full-time college students in the United States, 1.2 million drank alcohol, and 703,759 used marijuana. Researchers have also estimated that each year About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes. While gateway drugs in college can be the “norm,” they can open the door to another world of issues. And while the opioid epidemic has been on the rise, so have a need for Collegiate Recovery Programs.
The North Carolina Opioid Epidemic
With a dominant college presence, Greensboro, North Carolina is home to seven major Colleges and Universities. As a truly beautiful and quaint city, there also lies streets and areas of concentrated drug and alcohol use. State officials have been looking for ways to combat the increasing number of overdose deaths in North Carolina, which have climbed from 150 deaths in 1999 to 1,110 in 2015. A total of 11,072 North Carolinians died from opioid overdose during that time.
As clear as this issue is for young people, and as many college students as there are, North Carolina decided to do something about it.
In 2016 the then Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory did just that and put together a substance abuse task force. One of the main focus’s being on Collegiate Recovery Programs.
For one college campus in North Carolina, addiction has not discriminated and recovery has skyrocketed into a new sub-culture. With about 16,000 undergraduate students, there’s a hidden gem that lies tucked into the college campus of The University of North Carolina, Greensoboro (UNCG).
“UNCG was lucky enough to be chosen to receive a grant by the Governor to get a recovery program up and running,” Terri Spears, the Program Director of The Spartan Recovery Program described to me on the phone in an interview.
The Spartan Recovery Program – Redefining College
Created just over a year ago, The Spartan Recovery Program exists to provide a recovery-minded Empowerment, Purpose, and Inclusion, and Community, hence their slogan, “RISE.” UNCG students in all phases of recovery can pursue their personal, professional, and academic goals for the purpose of enhancing personal wellness and contributions to the global community.
Governor McCrory’s task force said that among its accomplishments, several college campuses hired more staff, changed policies and increased awareness and recovery. There’s no doubt that UNCG has been on of those campuses.
I had the pleasure to talk to Terri on the phone throughout her busy day. Clearly she has brought her passion into this program and has helped make the program into what it is today.
“Although it is a college town, Greensboro is also filled with recovery and we want to create an environment that is safe for students in sobriety. We have Oxford Houses and meetings all throughout the area, and we’ve incorporated a program where students can meet, connect, and share hope and recovery.”
The Spartan Recovery Program (SRP) provides a gentle, safe, and friendly camaraderie for students at all stages of their sobriety. Peer support puts students in contact with each other. SMART Recovery groups are offered as well as monthly celebrations and events. The program even offers a “clean” spring break in Destin, FL each year with other collegiate recovery communities across the southeast. “We want them to have the same college experience, just without the alcohol and drugs,” stated Spears. This next month, SRP’s event will host Dr. Rita Linger, who serves as the Executive Director of Recovery Communities of North Carolina.
“We also want our students creating relationships with other students in recovery. Sober support is vital for continued recovery,” stated Spears. Students are welcomed to attend at participate at recovery oriented conferences including Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Recovery Conference, Spiritually High in the Land of the Sky NA convention, and the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) conference.
Creating Recovery From Start To Finish
The Spartan Recovery Program has re-branded the college experience from start to finish. Admissions support is offered by helping students navigate barriers of prior poor academic performance, sanctions from former educational institutions and/or a criminal record due to active addiction. “We want students to come to college looking forward to being sober, and looking forward to succeeding. It’s these students who are raising the standards for our school, and we want to give those students every opportunity possible,” stated Terri.
In the fall of 2016 SRP began with four members. In the Spring of 2017 the program grew to 30 members. 28 of those members attained a Spring overall of 3.52 GPA.10 of those students earned a 4.0 GPA!
If students are in need of it, referrals to additional treatment and support services can be made. Opportunities for personal, professional, and academic development can are provided for students who have a solid program and are getting ready to graduate. Connection to campus support is offered through financial aid, tutoring, disability, and accessibility to those students who are in need of it.
The program even has an online messaging service known as “RecoveryZone,” created to reduce stigma surrounding addiction with students. It was developed for either online or face to face training for anyone with a UNCG email address. It also addresses how campus personnel and students can be supportive to students in recovery. “It is so important for our students to have a voice,” said Terri. “If we aren’t helping them get the best support possible, we aren’t succeeding.”
Succeeding for the Spartan Recovery community would be an understatement. Today there are 44 members and the program is growing at a rapid rate. “We did not anticipate this type of growth. We have outgrown our funding and are starting to fundraise,” stated Terri. “There are already about a dozen applicants for the 2018 Spring semester. We can’t wait to see where this program goes and anticipate more growth in the coming years.”
To learn more about the Spartan Recovery Program please visit their website at: