Alcohol abuse prevention: a wasted effort?

Blacksburg, Va., April 26, 2017 – Top of the Stairs: Tots is one of Blacksburg’s most popular bar hangouts and home to TOTS Tuesday, where students and residents can come together to sing and listen to karaoke, as well as drink alcohol every Tuesday night.  Photo: Kameron Kopecky

by Kameron Kopecky–

Underage drinking is one of the biggest problems on college campuses throughout the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.”

Virginia Tech has groups for students whose main goal is to combat underage drinking, as well as classes to teach incoming students about alcohol before they arrive on campus. They, along with other colleges are taking initiative and coming up with ways to try to combat underage drinking.

Universities, including Virginia Tech, are testing out various methods, such as Hokie Wellness and AlcoholEdu, to try and educate and prevent underage drinking by addressing it early on. At the beginning of each student’s freshman year, they are required to take the online AlcoholEdu course.  Their main goal “…is to create a welcoming and inclusive campus, and to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol misuse and abuse on campus as well as the incidents of unwanted sexual behavior.”

Virginia Tech junior Evan Burton said he recalls his experience with AlcoholEdu as a time that he rushed through the online course and called the course a joke.

If most students are like Burton, the effectiveness of the online course is clearly in question and it seems Virginia Tech may need to look for alternative methods to educate students on the dangers of alcohol abuse.

While college can be rigorous, stressful, and overwhelming at times, some students may search for ways to help them relieve their stresses through the consumption of alcohol.

For some it becomes more than simply a way to alleviate stress.

“I feel like it’s out there [alcohol] and I’m doing it. I am not going to stop [drinking],” Burton said.


VT Thrift gives back

Blacksburg, Va., April 6, 2017 – Founder of VT Thrift: Junior Virginia Tech student Carter Davis holding up one of his vintage thrift store Reebok jackets, which he sells on his Instagram page, @vt.thrift. Photo: Kameron Kopecky

by Kameron Kopecky–

Thrift store shopping, or “thrifting,” has become much more than a way for individuals to save money on clothing.  Over the past decade, thrifting has turned into what many would consider a “fad” or “trend.”  Individuals, mostly teens and young adults, head to thrift stores in search of vintage finds and retro threads at bargain prices.  However, one Virginia Tech student is taking it all a step further.

Carter Davis, a junior at Virginia Tech, has started a small business called VT Thrift.  Entirely operated through the social media photo sharing app Instagram, Davis uploads all of his thrift store finds to his profile and his followers can direct message him if they are interested in making a purchase.

The majority of purchases on VT Thrift come from Virginia Tech students.  However, he has sent clothes to buyers from Tennessee, New Jersey, and even Texas.  One offer even came from a follower in Germany.

A big reason Davis started VT Thrift was to give back.  He is a member of an organization at Virginia Tech called Out of the Darkness, which works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, to help spread awareness of depression and prevent suicide.  The organization holds an annual Out of the Darkness Walk where individual walkers and teams walk around the Drillfield to raise money for the AFSP.  This year, Davis used a percentage of VT Thrift’s earnings to put towards his donation to the Out of the Darkness walk.

“I wanted to show that I didn’t care so much about the money.  I figured why not donate some of it to AFSP,” said Davis.

Davis donated $100 of VT Thrift’s earnings to the Out of the Darkness Walk and plans on donating a percentage of his earnings to a charity chosen every month by the VT Thrift followers.

Service dogs: When the training is complete

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 6 – Training Day:  Dakota, a seven-month old white Golden Retriever, is part of the SDWR training program.

by Kameron Kopecky–

If you have been on the Virginia Tech campus recently you have more than likely seen a handful of students accompanied by dogs with colored vests on.  These dogs are part of the SDWR and the Saint Francis Service Dogs training program and the students are their trainers.

The trainers are with the dogs throughout the duration of the 12 to 18 month program where the dogs are required to learn over 50 commands in order to one day aid a child or other individual in need.  Once their training is complete, the dogs graduate to service dog school where they are further trained for specific disorders, which include autism, epilepsy, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and diabetes, also known as invisible disabilities.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, “an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

After the dogs complete service dog school, they are assigned to an individual with an invisible disability.  Most of the time, this individual is a child, but under no circumstances is there an age restriction to qualify for a service dog.

Unfortunately, qualifying and obtaining a service dog is not as easy as signing a few papers and bringing the dog home like it is for adopting a regular pet.  A trained service dog can cost upwards of $25,000.  Many recipients start GoFundMe pages and other similar forms of funding to help pay for the cost of the service dog.  If a recipient does have the money to pay for the service dog, they still have some time to go before the entirety of the training process is complete.

“The training continues with the family until the dog is three years of age and can test for their official title of a service dog,” said Carey Johnson, an SDWR trainer at Virginia Tech who has been training her service dog, Dakota, for the past two months.

When the service dog has completed all of its training it officially belongs to the recipient and remains with them throughout the remainder of the dog’s lifetime.

If for any reason the service dog is unable to complete its training, the service dog trainer is first-in-line to adopt the dog.