“We’re not trying to say, ‘Don’t go drink,’” said KSU senior Jessica Iarocci, one of about 15 peer health educators at the school. “We’re just giving everyone the information so they make the healthiest decision.”
The peer health educators are part of KSU’s participation in the Georgia Young Adult Program. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety recently awarded a $10,750 grant to the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness in the KSU WellStar College of Health & Human Services. Sherry Grable, director of the health promotion and wellness center, said the money will allow KSU to continue the peer alcohol education program for a sixth year.
The grant money is intended to educate students with an eye toward reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries, Grable said. It emphasizes making sure students count how many drinks they consume, which isn’t always as simple as it sounds. This involves encouraging students to pay attention to what constitutes a standard drink, both in size of the container and alcohol content of the drink.
“If you’re drinking out of a Solo cup, the serving size is one-and-a-half drinks, instead of one,” Grable said. “Not all drinks are created equal.”
The campaign also focuses on giving out positive information. Grable said that instead of saying “30 percent of KSU students drink and drive,” they will point out that seven-of-10 students chose to use a designated driver every time they party.
The peer health educators use other statistics, taken from a spring 2012 study of KSU students by the American College Health Association, to encourage responsible drinking. They include pointing out that 46 percent of KSU students had four or fewer drinks the last time they partied, while 35 percent chose not to drink at all. In addition, 82 percent of students said they always eat before drinking and nine out of 10 stay with the same group of friends the entire time they are drinking.
“The perception is that students are really engaging in high-risk behavior, but in reality they’re not,” Grable said.
Students in the Georgia Young Adult Program also go to classes to educate other students about alcohol abuse. The program, which receives money from the university’s budget along with the state grant, also sponsors an October Walktoberfest, a mile-long “fun walk” that features activities designed to inform students on the risks of alcohol abuse.
Students like Iarocci receive college credit for participating in the alcohol awareness program. While she will graduate from KSU next week, Iarocci said she hopes the lessons they are teaching will stick with younger students for years.
“Kennesaw doesn’t have a huge problem right now with alcohol-related problems,” she said. “But when Kennesaw gets football, how is alcohol going to change, how are the policies going to change? If we can get the freshmen, who might be seniors when we get football, it might not be as big an issue.”