UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Striking a balance between academic success, extracurricular involvement and managing an active social life can be challenging for many college students — especially when harmful alcohol behaviors are involved. During the 2016-17 academic year, roughly 25 percent of undergraduate students responding to the PULSE Student Drinking Survey facilitated by Penn State Student Affairs Research and Assessment stated that they had experienced some type of direct negative consequence in their academic or interpersonal lives due to alcohol use.
In an effort to reduce harmful alcohol habits on campus and to introduce students to positive role models, the Take the Lead campaign has returned for its seventh year. The campaign, sponsored by the University Park Undergraduate Association, Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, Off-Campus Student Union, Student Athlete Advisory Council, Area Residence Hall Associations, and Council of Lionhearts, aims to promote a healthy environment by sharing alcohol-harm reduction messages.
Each year, a group of Penn State student leaders recommended by faculty, staff and their peers are asked how they "Take the Lead" to stay safe, look out for friends and represent Penn State. Their answers are highlighted on posters around campus.
Rachel Reiss, a senior dual-majoring in entrepreneurship and French and the Blue Band Blue Sapphire featured twirler, said surrounding herself with positive role models has helped her achieve success.
“When I first arrived at Penn State, I was fortunate to meet a group of astounding mentors through my involvement in the Blue Band,” said Reiss. “I never felt pressure to drink or engage in other harmful behaviors around them and that really helped me focus on what was important. One of the best things a new student can do is surround themselves with positive influencers, I hope that I am able to provide that example to others.”
In addition to the Take the Lead print campaign, student leaders also will provide one-on-one outreach during an event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9, in the HUB-Robeson Center. The annual event, which aligns with Homecoming Week activities, reminds students to be safe about drinking. Students will be able to talk with the student leaders, write down their own positive behaviors, and pose for a photo to demonstrate how they "Take the Lead."
“There are students who feel pressure to drink alcohol and it is important for me to be a voice that says ‘you don’t have to do this because others are,’” said Darius Williams-McKenzie, a senior broadcast journalism major and member of the University Park Allocation Committee. “My advice to students is to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. There are more important things than drinking and you never know what you might excel at.”
The 2017 Take the Lead campaign, organized by Penn State Health Promotion and Wellness, features 11 student leaders from a number of athletic, multicultural and professional student organizations at Penn State. In addition to Reiss and Williams-McKenzie, this year’s featured student leaders include Chahat Sharma, president, She’s the First; David Lucas, men’s track and field; Katie Jordan, president, University Park Undergraduate Association; Lawrence Green, international relations chair, BLUEprint; Natasha Roberts, mentor coordinator, BLUEprint; Jane Pereira-Ogan, vice president for standards, Panhellenic Council; Katie Heckman, Blue Band; Nicole Marie Medvitz, women’s gymnastics; and Sabrina Sayoc, director of external affairs, Filipino Association.