Georgia College snags grant for drinking, traffic education

jmink@macon.comDecember 9, 2013 

Every year at Georgia College & State University, about 100 students pull on goggles and immediately experience dizziness and blurry vision. Then, they jump in a car or a golf cart.

The DUI simulator is a portion of the college’s peer education program, which, in large part, informs students about the dangers of irresponsible drinking and works to stop them from making bad decisions. For the 10th year in a row, the college has snagged a state grant, which is the main reason the program is so effective, officials say.

“We do a lot of alcohol education throughout the year,” said Rachel Pope, a university health educator. “It helps keep our campus healthy and safe.”

The college received $7,200 from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which is about $1,000 less than past years due to budget cuts. Still, that money is essential, as it funds the simulator, advertisements in the school newspaper, event speakers and incentives for students to attend the events.

At Georgia College, a school survey shows about 69 percent of students drink alcohol, Pope said. The peer education events are geared toward teaching those students how to stay sober -- or at least drink safely.

“Anytime students’ lives are involved, it’s a great opportunity to say, ‘We value you and want you to be safe,’” she said.

Students attend information sessions, where they not only chat with police officers but also with their peers. Students apply to be peer educators, and the grant also pays for them to attend training classes.

Jared Brumbeloe, a senior community health major, is president of Peers Advocating Wellness Successfully.

“Health education is the basis for everything” Brumbeloe said in a release. “To be able to do outreach and speak with students, adults and children, you have to have a good basis. So by being president of P.A.W.S, I got an overview of health education I wouldn’t normally have had.”

And the outreach projects are working, Pope said.

According to a survey, about 34 percent of students alternate drinking alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, compared to about 26 percent in 2011. Additionally, more students -- 39 percent -- avoid drinking games, Pope said.

Peer education not only focuses on preventing drinking. The program encourages students to drink responsibly by avoiding binge drinking, eating while they drink, avoiding drinking games and designating sober drivers. The grant also helps the college encourage general traffic safety, such as wearing seat belts.

“We definitely need this grant,” Pope said. “If we didn’t have this grant, we wouldn’t be able to do hardly anything with these students.”

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