The Champions of Change is a group on campus comprised of a handful of individuals who dedicate their time to making Lawrence a safer and more responsible place in regard to alcohol consumption culture. This group is funded through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Choices grant, which gives enough monetary support for this group to launch movements, put on events, collect data and educate the student body, as well as staff and faculty on the culture surrounding alcohol consumption and what that consumption does to someone’s overall health.
The NCAA Choices alcohol education grant programs provide funding for NCAA member institutions and conferences to “integrate athletics departments into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse.” In the spring of 2017, two student athletes and an athletics department employee composed an application that included an explanation for why we were applying and a proposal for how we would implement the program at Lawrence. Within in a few months, Lawrence Athletics were notified that we were given the grant. This is a grant that spans over three years, ensuring the complete ability to implement proper strategies and educational efforts. Thus, the Champions of Change was created and in the fall of 2017 started getting to work.
The first step of this process consisted of putting this group together and creating a full calendar that mapped out their responsibilities over the course of this grant funding. The board of the group consists of three staff members and six or more student athletes. The most recent people filling those spots are student athletes, junior Gabriel Baker, sophomores Jordan Jenkins, Ceara Larson and Brynn Schroeder, seniors Chloe Gierymski and Madeline MacLean and faculty members, Coach Phil Grams, Athletic Trainer Ashley Rottier and Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli. Once this group was put together, the hard work began.
The first thing on the long list of ideas and things to do was to put out a survey to get original readings on where the campus, especially student athletes, landed on the scale of alcohol consumption habits. This survey was sent out with some incentives attached: the first team to get the whole team to send in their survey would get a dinner from Cozzy Corner and individuals who submitted surveys were put into a raffle to win various prizes. The Champions of Change received a wonderful return value on that survey that allowed for important data to be collected and then used in presentations and create focus areas.
On top of this constant data analysis to see how the campus has been improving, the group had to plan events and other ways to get the campus involved and on board with this idea. In early January of 2018, Coach Grams gave a speech in the Chapel to student athletes where he told his story of falling into the traps of addiction but also how he found his way back on his feet. His speech was moving and meaningful to everyone in attendance. Following the speech was an ice cream social where some beneficial and honest conversation took place.
After officially launching this campaign to make the drinking culture on campus safer and people more responsible in drinking situations, the group continued to plan and learn and grow. Three student athletes and one of the faculty members travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia to attend the APPLE training institute conference. This conference consisted of bystander intervention training as well as learning how to facilitate the training. That allowed for the group to come back to campus with the ability to facilitate bystander intervention training. This conference also allowed for a lot of educational opportunities surrounding prevention of substance abuse and how to further promote health and wellness.
After that conference, there was nothing to do but continue to implement new ideas and get campus feedback. It was a full send moment. Monthly events started getting planned, and new ideas were brought to every meeting.
The group put together a concrete prospective student hosting agreement that solidifies the rules, has consequences and ensures that each possible new student gets to experience Lawrence for all that it is. Monthly events in the Wellness Center were well attended and varied throughout the terms. Laser tag, late night breakfast, basketball, water pong and other fun games were played on various nights. One of the most popular events is bubble soccer. So popular, in fact, that the Champions of Change have invested in their own set of them. There are 12 total inflatable bubbles, six for each team. While the group uses them for their own events, these are available for renting, or if another group is interested in partnering up for an event, then the Champions of Change would be more than happy to work together on an event.
In the spring of 2018, the group tried out the idea of hosting a dry night at the Viking Room, the campus bar. The dry night was held on a Monday night, trivia was played, pizza and popcorn were served and two coaches from the athletics department came and guest bartended. This was such a successful event that the Champions of Change turned it into a monthly event. When students returned to campus for fall term of 2018, they had the opportunity to go to three different dry nights, some just to chill, others to play trivia and even on occasion sing some karaoke.
Within all the fun, the group also took on the responsibility of educating the athletic community. Beginning in the fall of 2018, a student and a faculty advisor of the group presented bystander intervention to each individual athletic team. These presentations covered topics from alcohol consumption to sexual assault to learning about consent and resources on campus to help educate people even more. Each presentation was unique to the group and heavy on discussion rather than lecture because that method seems to catch the attention of student-athletes on a higher level and therefore allow for the important information to imbed itself into the minds of the individuals. Only three teams are left to present this training too, and this is going to be a yearly experience for the teams on campus to ensure that good habits start and that every student feels that much safer when they decide to go out or hang out with friends.
At this point, the goals of the group are to launch into a social norms campaign, continue to put on monthly events, as well as monthly dry nights and continue to educate the student body on a safer alcohol consumption and drinking culture. They are by no means telling people to stop drinking entirely but are simply relaying information that boost responsibility and safety levels when people do decide to make that choice. As Lawrentians, we have to take care of each other and this group provides information and events that allow for students to do that successfully.
If you are interested in becoming more involved with this group, feel free to message them on any social media platform or send an email to any of the previously mentioned individuals.