‘Bystander intervention’ added to service day

Instead of picking up trash or painting murals in Southeast D.C., about a dozen students will learn signs of alcohol poisoning and how to coach a friend into counseling at next month’s Freshman Day of Service.

For the first time, the service day that normally takes students cross-town will include on-campus training on how to help at-risk individuals, particularly those struggling with alcohol, drugs, mental health problems or sexual violence.

University staff and peer educators will run a workshop Sept. 8, role-playing to demonstrate potentially harmful social scenarios to teach freshmen how to become “heroes,” Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine said.

“It’s an opportunity for students who may want to do something on campus, instead of going off campus, to learn more about what they can do for the GW community and really enhance what they already do to help a friend,” Levine, who is also the interim director of the University Counseling Center, said.

“That’s what it means to be a Colonial, to help someone.” Levine added. “Every Colonial counts.”

About 12 students have signed up to participate as of last week, and 20 more are registered for the University’s CPR certification workshop, which also took place last year.

All 2,400 freshmen are expected to attend this year’s Freshman Day of Service, said Amy Cohen, executive director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. Last year, about 2,000 freshmen volunteered across the city after attending Freshman Convocation – a tradition that will carry on this year.

Tara Pereira, the director of campus inclusion initiatives and former leader of judicial operations, helped create the workshop series for student organizations that want their members to be “good samaritans.” She said offering this kind of training to freshmen seemed natural.

“We didn’t want to do a litter clean up,” Pereira said. “I mean, that’s important, but we wanted to do something impactful, and I think a lot of first year students are a great target population to hear those messages again and to hear those resources again.”

Pereira has a decade-long background in the Center for Alcohol and Other Drugs, the University’s drug and alcohol education organization which hosts the bystander intervention workshops, called Every Colonial Counts, throughout the year.

“This service that is done by our students doesn’t necessarily have to be trackable by hours. It can be much more of those little moments,” Pereira said.

Several departments and student organizations collaborated on the creation of the program, including UCC, CADE, GW’s Impact on Substance Education, and the Active Minds, Health Outreach Peer Educators and Students Against Sexual Assault.

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