Lawrence Athletics wins NCAA CHOICES grant for Champions of Change program

Lawrence Athletics wins NCAA CHOICES grant for Champions of Change program

APPLETON, Wis. -- The Lawrence University Department of Athletics has won an NCAA CHOICES grant to implement its Lawrence Vikings: Champions of Change program.

The NCAA will award Lawrence $30,000 over a three-year period.

In an effort to educate students about the risks involved with the misuse of alcohol, the NCAA has developed NCAA CHOICES, a grant program for alcohol education. Support for the program comes from the NCAA Foundation and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

The NCAA CHOICES program provides funding for NCAA member institutions and conferences to integrate athletics departments into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse. NCAA CHOICES projects must partner athletics with other campus departments in the development and implementation of effective alcohol education projects.

"It is truly exciting that Lawrence has been awarded the coveted NCAA CHOICES Alcohol Education Grant, supporting education of our student body about the risks involved with the misuse of alcohol," Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray said. "On our campus alcohol misuse is an area where we can improve. Student-athletes and the Department of Athletics overall are two of the most visible components on campus, so we in athletics look forward to taking the lead in our prevention efforts."

The purpose of the program covers three main areas -- to engage students in learning about the current culture of alcohol use on the Lawrence campus, to develop and implement alcohol-free programming and to encourage responsible alcohol use. The target audience will include Lawrence student-athletes, and the secondary audience will include all students, athletics coaches and Student Life staff.

The program's first goal is to establish, train and sustain a group of student-athlete leaders, who will be trained to provide peer mentoring and take the lead on alcohol abuse prevention efforts geared toward all students at Lawrence. This group will be called the Champions of Change Council.

The second goal is by reviewing existing and current data, Lawrence students and staff will be educated about the current culture of alcohol use on campus as well as best practices to deter continuation of this culture.

A third goal is to implement training of students and staff on alcohol abuse. They would be able to apply what they have learned to implement comprehensive alcohol-abuse prevention strategies on the Lawrence campus.

The fourth goal is utilize a social norms campaign to raise awareness about perceived alcohol-related behavior on campus compared to actual alcohol behavior patterns.

The fifth goal is to develop and implement alcohol-free programming events for Lawrence students to prevent high-risk alcohol use.

"The CHOICES grant emphasizes the need for a partnership and collaborative approach across several different LU departments, which is not only paramount to institutionalizing the efforts but also is who we are," Abaray said. "We are building a 'prevention' community, encompassing the entire student body with athletics as the lead to shift our culture around alcohol use. We want to thank the NCAA CHOICES grant selection committee and the main sponsor, Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc."

The grant was earned through the work of a diverse group of staff and students from across campus. Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli is the project director, and the lead Department of Athletics staff member on the project is Women's Soccer Coach Lisa Sammons.

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee members and the first members of the Champions of Change Council are softball player Madeline MacLean and swimmer/track and field athlete Eryn Blagg.

Other key players in the project include Abaray, Associate Dean of Health and Wellness Services Richard Jazkzewski, Assistant Dean for Campus Life Rose Wasielewski, Director of Research Administration Kristin McKinley, Art Director Liz Boutelle and James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Kathy Privatt.