Jocelyn Buggy ’22
Chief News Editor
September marked the 31st annual National Recovery Awareness month, originally established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 1989. Following this national awareness initiative, Oct. 22 through Oct. 28 is Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. The Office of Student Wellness Education continues to organize events for the College of the Holy Cross community surrounding these two significant weeks.
Through events like Homecoming Weekend’s “Sober AF Tailgate,” the new Assistant Director of student wellness, Joy LaGrutta, is partnering with her team of dedicated students, faculty, and staff to promote substance and wellness education on campus. The Spire spoke with LaGrutta about some upcoming initiatives during the Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, along with her goals for the Office of Student Wellness Education this year.
“My position was created as a new role, with the goal of growing wellness education at Holy Cross,” LaGrutta said. “We are really looking forward to developing a holistic wellness program that can offer students resources and education on a variety of topics including stress reduction, improving sleep habits, nutrition, healthy relationships, physical wellness, mental wellness, and the many ways in which wellness can impact your health and happiness in college.”
When asked about some specific goals she has for the student wellness program on campus, LaGrutta responded: “When it comes to alcohol and drug education, I look forward to genuinely helping students the most, whether it be students in recovery, students engaged in high-risk drinking, or students who identify as substance free. I hope to have open and honest conversations with students. I recognize that experimentation can be a normal part of growing up. But, I also know that alcohol and drugs can really impact your academic success, motivation, and overall wellbeing when you’re in college. Substance use can also have a negative impact on the whole community. Getting students to see these connections and helping them to make responsible choices is something I look forward to.”
“Another part of my role here is education and prevention across the campus,” LaGrutta continued. “I look forward to participating in a variety of wellness programming that promotes health and resilience to the entire student body. The best way to prevent drug and alcohol abuse is to teach and promote resilience — traits like perseverance, optimism, confidence, endurance, and leadership. If you can get students exposed to programs that encourage these traits, the hope is that they will have the skills necessary to make good choices far beyond their four years of college.”
The commemoration of Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week speaks to the number of college students both across the nation and in Worcester who are in recovery themselves, or who seek support for the drug or alcohol addiction of a loved one. The Office of Student Wellness Education has several events planned over the next few weeks aimed at reducing stigma, lowering barriers to support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening everyone’s understanding about how substance use has impacted many on the Holy Cross campus.
The Spire asked Joy LaGrutta about the resources available to students impacted by substance use. “The college environment is particularly challenging for students in recovery, those seeking to live a substance free life, and students who have loved ones who struggle with substance use,” LaGrutta responded. “Many perceive substance use as an integral part of college life, so the choice to not partake can be harder because there is drinking all around you at times. College is also a time when developing a supportive peer network is critical to developing a healthy social life. The Office of Student Wellness Education recognizes these challenges, and seeks to provide activities for students who identify as substance free. These activities serve as a way to provide fun entertainment, but the more important goal is to help students meet and develop friendships with other like-minded students. We have a large community of students who opt to not use any substances yet want to plan and participate in fun social activities.
LaGrutta continued: “Wellness staff are available to meet and talk with students about their individual substance use. Any student can contact our office to schedule an appointment for a substance use assessment. Additionally, the Counseling Office is always available to see students who are struggling with substance use or want to discuss addiction in their families. Our recovery lounge, located in Hogan 215A, is a dedicated space reserved for students in recovery and students who identify as substance free. Having a dedicated space reserved for this population is an important way to help connect with students.”
The Office of Student Wellness Education also hosts weekly meet-ups for students in recovery on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. The meetings, which take place in Hogan 215A, serve as an opportunity for students to meet others in recovery, chat with LaGrutta who is a certified SMART recovery coach, and find people who can help them build a recovery community on campus.
In addition to the Recovery Lounge, the student wellness team is also sponsoring a series of events throughout late October and early November related to substance use. These events include a Flag Tribute to acknowledge the 1,825 college students who perish each year from alcohol-related accidents on college campuses across the United States. Students from SWEETwill set up a display featuring 1,825 small flags on the lawn in front of Kimball, which will remain there from Oct. 25–29.
On Oct. 27, student wellness will also be handing out red ribbons at a Hogan 1st floor lobby table. Students will be asked to wear the pinned ribbons to show their support for students whose lives have been negatively impacted by substances. SWEET peer educators will also be in the Hogan lobby area on Oct. 29 for a “Bar Exam” event, where they will educate students on skills like measuring drinks and calculating BAC.
To learn more about the student wellness office and its programs, students are encouraged to check out @hc_swellness on Instagram. Holy Cross community members can also stop by the Jo Wellness Center office at any time to chat with Joy LaGrutta or Liz Drexler-Hines, director of the Office of Student Wellness Education.