One does not often associate college fraternities with sobriety efforts – but the Delta Psi chapter of Alpha Tau Omega at the University of Mississippi chose the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) on the Oxford, Miss., campus as the recipient of the proceeds from their 2014 Greek Cup.
A weeklong philanthropic competition, the ATO Greek Cup pits Ole Miss sororities against each other to raise money and heighten awareness in the spirit of charity and fellowship. The 2014 fundraising competition included a coin drop, banner campaign and culminated with a weekend soccer tournament; the Delta Gammas took home the tournament cup while the Phi Mus won best overall.
But at the end of the day, it was the Collegiate Recovery Community that won, receiving a check from ATO for $40,000.
“The Collegiate Recovery Community at UM sheds light on an issue that often gets brushed under the rug on college campuses: substance abuse and addiction,” said ATO Philanthropy Chair Stephan Castellanos. “One of our own brothers is a member of the CRC at UM, and it has had a profound impact upon his life. So, when it came time for us to select our beneficiary for this year's Greek Cup, the CRC was not only a very worthy cause, but also one close to our hearts.”
Founded in 2010, the CRC at UM provides recovering students with the resources and support to achieve their academic goals, further their personal and professional growth, and have active, fulfilling collegiate experiences without the use of alcohol or drugs. A network of peers, faculty and staff familiar with the pressures of collegiate life facilitate CRC’s transitional support.
Growing into its fourth year, the CRC at UM offers unique scholarship opportunities, informal academic advising and a sense of belonging and community to its members. The community gives students a place to turn when feeling overwhelmed on a large campus or stressed by the expectations of university life. CRC students also participate in community service projects while remaining abstinent from alcohol and drug use.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of the ATO fraternity,” said Susan Nicholas, a UM academic mentor and program coordinator of the North Mississippi VISTA Project who heads the CRC advisory committee. “This gift will directly fund scholarships for Collegiate Recovery Community students, but even more importantly it says to CRC students that their experience matters. This support is especially meaningful when it comes from fellow UM students.”
Ole Miss: A Community of Encouragement and Support
After ATO chose CRC at UM as their philanthropy for 2014, CRC students attended a fraternal chapter meeting to thank the members for their support. One of the CRC students, who asked to remain anonymous, volunteered to share his experience with the ATOs.
“I talked about being a college student and struggling with addiction,” he said. “I wanted them to know what it meant to be able to return to Ole Miss and finish my degree, but not just that I got to return – that I got to do so with the support of CRC.”
Clark Hunt, a member of the CRC at UM advisory board, also attended the chapter meeting.
“It was a very moving experience, both for those of us representing CRC and for the ATOs,” said Hunt. “This student shared his testimony, and it was received by fellow students with a burst of warm and genuine applause; it was a very supportive environment in that fraternity house that night.”
Said the student, “It was an honor for me to be able to put a face on recovery and let others see an example of someone who struggled with addiction but is now back on campus and doing well. Often when colleges and universities ‘educate’ students about drug and alcohol abuse, the stories of everything that can go wrong are the examples. If my story has a positive effect for just one person who needs to hear it, then my time was well spent.”
Hunt said he would like to see this type of testimony take place in more Greek chapters and other Ole Miss student organizations. He knows the impact, having taken opportunities to speak to university freshman during UM’s First-Year Experience courses which introduce the rigors of campus life.
“Telling incoming freshmen our stories of recovery always proves powerful – not only in the hopes of preventing addiction, but to contribute to changing the culture of alcohol and drug abuse on college campuses. We need to emphasize that sobriety and recovery have a significant place within the realm of college life – that a vibrant social life is perfectly attainable in recovery.”
CRC at UM is currently exploring the possibility of creating a group of peer educators among its members to perform such outreach.
Committed to Recovery
Most importantly, the CRC at UM is committed to evolving with the needs of its student members. The recovery program not only provides basic support services, but this Spring semester awarded nine textbook scholarships to student members, the first scholarships offered through CRC since its inception.
“The Division of Student Affairs is constantly seeking new ways to provide resources and opportunities to help all University of Mississippi students achieve success in and out of the classroom,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for wellness and student success. “A supportive living and learning environment is crucial to student success, and there is no better support than that which comes from one’s peers. When ATO chose CRC at UM as their philanthropic recipient for the year, they chose their fellow students. This says to our CRC students that their experience is acknowledged, and that their peers want to help them succeed. ATO has embraced CRC and has helped share its mission across campus, letting each CRC student know that he or she is a welcomed and significant member of our student body. We thank them for that.”
ATO Castellanos said he is glad the University of Mississippi has shone a light on substance abuse and taken strides to help students recover, not cast them aside for their mistakes and difficulties.
“We feel that Collegiate Recovery Community does a great deal of good on our campus,” said Castellanos. “It provides an environment where those struggling with addiction and substance abuse can go to be encouraged and find resources. Too often these things get blown off or overlooked. It is time to address them and help our fellow students.”
Said one UM CRC member, “Having a Collegiate Recovery Community on campus is like having a flashlight in the dark. I am truly blessed to be a part of the UM CRC, and I am excited about our future.”
The Collegiate Recovery Community Endowment is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, Miss. 38655 or visiting www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. To learn more about the Collegiate Recovery Community Endowment, contact Sarah Hollis at (662) 915-1584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.