The Red Watch Band CARE Team visited Comsewogue High School on January 30 and 31 to conduct Red Watch Band trainings. A total of 250 juniors and seniors attended the six training sessions offered over the two-day period.
Red Watch Band is a bystander intervention program designed to inform college and high school students of the numerous ways that toxic drinking deaths can be prevented and to promote an atmosphere of respect, responsibility and kindness. The program was created after a Stony Brook Medicine doctor’s son died tragically due to alcohol poisoning, and the campus community felt compelled to create a program that could educate students on how to be an active bystander in an alcohol-related medical emergency.
The Red Watch Band CARE Team plays a vital role in the program’s success. Committed student leaders conduct outreach at campus events and partner with various student groups such as fraternities, sororities and athletes as well as departments such as Campus Residences.
Building Up Momentum
Last fall semester, Red Watch Band CARE Team members were determined to train at least 1,000 students. They exceeded this goal with a total of 1,284 students trained by the end of the semester. This was the highest number of students ever trained in one semester, making it a very important milestone for the program.
CARE Team members Joel Cohen, a senior studying applied mathematics and statistics and economics, and Rakia Syed, a junior studying biology and linguistics, conducted the trainings on the first day; while Jessica McKay, a junior with a major in social work, and Kerri Mahoney, Alcohol and Other Drugs Outreach specialist for Center for Prevention and Outreach, conducted the trainings on the second day.
Breaking Down Stereotypes
During the trainings, the high schoolers were very interested in the information and engaged with the CARE Team members. A crucial point in the training is to break down stereotypes related to high-risk toxic drinking in college. The CARE Team asked the students what percentage of college undergraduates they believed were binge drinking, and the numbers that the high schoolers guessed ranged from 75% to 99.9%. They were surprised to learn that on a national level, only 39% of college students engage in binge drinking. This helped the presenters explain that there is a powerful social norm surrounding college drinking, and that the perception and the reality are really quite different.
Spreading the Word
This visit was a great way for Stony Brook University students to give back to the local community while spreading an important message to these students who will one day go to college and might be faced with situations involving toxic drinking.
“It was a great experience for our CARE Team members to conduct outreach with the community surrounding alcohol and drugs,” said Mahoney.
The Red Watch Band CARE Team will be conducting trainings in other high schools throughout the semester. They are scheduled to train at two Long Island schools: Herricks High School on March 3 and at Syosset High School on March 28.