Grant aims to improve game day environment

The University is recruiting student-athletes and greeks to deliver alcohol abuse prevention presentations in the fall.

With the implementation of the NCAAâÄôs CHOICES grant , University of Minnesota administrators say they hope to improve the game day environment with the return of football to campus this fall by encouraging sportsmanship and responsible choices. As part of the program, the University is in the process of recruiting student athletes and members of the greek community to deliver alcohol abuse prevention presentations in the fall. The NCAA developed the program aiming to integrate athletics into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse. Amelious Whyte , chief of staff for the vice provost for student affairs, said the University received the three-year grant totaling $30,000 in April, along with 14 other institutions, for their program called âÄúGolden Gophers make Golden Choices .âÄù The UniversityâÄôs CHOICES program has three objectives. As part of the sportsmanship initiative, a student group called We Are Minnesota was formed to teach and lead cheers in the student section of TCF Bank Stadium, Assistant Director of Student Unions and Activities Mandi Soderlund said. For the second part of the CHOICES program, freshmen will be taught school songs and rousers at the pride and spirit event during Welcome Week in September, rather than during convocation as in past years, Soderlund said. The third and final part of the grant will be used to get students involved in Boynton Health Service âÄôs program SNAP, or Student Network for Abuse Prevention . The program trains students to become peer educators and deliver presentations on making safe and healthy choices with alcohol. BoyntonâÄôs Associate Program Director Dana Farley said it has been around for four years, but with the CHOICES grant, this is the first time the University has actively sought to involve more student-athletes and students in fraternities and sororities. Whyte said they created the three parts of the program with the goal of making campus on game days not only fun but also safe. âÄúIt was grounded in the fact that the football stadium is opening, and we wanted to see what we could do to set the right tone with a variety of issues but mostly fan behavior,âÄù he said. Farley said four to six student-athletes and students from fraternities and sororities are being recruited for the SNAP program right now. TheyâÄôll begin training over the summer and then deliver presentations to their peers and students in residence halls in the fall. Five students have expressed interest in becoming involved so far, but he hasnâÄôt interviewed them yet. They will be chosen in August. He said students who live on campus are generally easier to reach, but involving greeks and student-athletes is important. âÄúInvolving them in making healthy decisions is another way to reach out to people off campus or that may be in situations where there are lots of parties or high risk for drinking,âÄù Farley said. Peyton Owens , assistant director of the McNamara Academic Center for Student Athletes, is helping recruit student-athletes to the program. He said itâÄôs important to get that group involved because the CHOICES program surrounds sporting events. âÄúWe feel itâÄôs very important to have student-athletes at the forefront to articulate what our vision and mission and purpose is,âÄù he said. âÄúWe want to make sure [theyâÄôre] really passionate about this as well, and then, in turn, going out and delivering that message.âÄù Whyte said the CHOICES program will focus on football right now, but he wants to eventually bring the initiatives to other sports as well. âÄúWeâÄôre doing something that very few colleges and universities have gotten a chance to do lately, which is open up a new football stadium, so weâÄôve been very focused on wanting to make sure we do it right,âÄù he said.