Another Polk State College student organization has received national recognition.
SLAM! (Students Living A Message) was named Outstanding New Network Affiliate on Nov. 5 during the BACCHUS Network General Assembly in Reston, Va., taking the honor for a series of events it organized during its first year of existence.
SLAM! was formed on the Winter Haven campus in summer 2010. Its 18 members educate their peers on issues such as the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs; the importance of practicing safe sex; and the prevention of other high-risk behaviors.
The Denver-based BACCHUS Network, founded in 1975, promotes and supports peer- education organizations that are led by students and young adults. There are 800 BACCHUS network affiliates in North America.
Polk State SLAM! adviser Cate Igo said the members show genuine compassion for their fellow members, a contributing factor to their national recognition.
“I am so proud of the SLAM! peer educators. They have invested hundreds of hours of altruistic service with one goal in mind — helping their peers make safe choices,” said Igo, also an academic success counselor. “In addition to educational programs they have intervened on several occasions when a peer was in a potentially life-threatening situation, and helped them stay safe. They love their peers, they love what they do — and it shows.”
In submitting its application for the award, SLAM! highlighted a number of events it staged during its first year. Among those was a weeklong World AIDS Day event that offered free STD and HIV testing. A total of 425 students were tested, and 12 learned that they had an STD.
The event also included national speakers Tracy and Tim Dannemiller, a Lakeland couple living with HIV and AIDS; a display of nine sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt; a 200-student art project titled “Ribbons of Love”; a 100-foot Memorial Ribbon; a viewing of the movie “Philadelphia”; a student pledge to be educated about and protect against HIV/AIDS; and free World AIDS Day T-shirts. Also, more than 700 male and female condoms were distributed during the event, the first time condoms were given away during a public event on campus.
A survey showed that prior to the event, only 8 percent of students could correctly answer how many Americans are living with HIV and are unaware they are infected; after the event, 100 percent of students answered correctly.
SLAM! President Tyler Ewles said he was especially proud of the scope and impact of the AIDS project.
“It was our biggest event and it was open to the community. We’re going to do it again this year, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2,” said Ewles, a Winter Haven resident.
Another example of SLAM!’s work was Beer Goggles and Jail Bail. The Oct. 2010 event emphasized the importance of having a designated driver.
Winter Haven Police Department officers conducted sobriety tests on students wearing Fatal Vision Goggles, which simulate the effects of alcohol impairment. A total of 287 students were tested and failed the sobriety tests. The students were then sent to the SLAMMER!, a mock jail cell that contained information about alcohol safety, including social-norm statistics about drunk driving.
By providing students with social-norms, SLAM! helps relieve pressure students may feel to drink, do drugs, have sex or engage in other potentially destructive behaviors, Igo said.
Other SLAM! events focused on preventing sexual assault, embracing diversity and the effects of using marijuana. SLAM! members also collected canned foods for Meals on Wheels and attended a BACCHUS conference. Members also participated in a two-day leadership and training event on the Polk State campus to improve the communication and cohesion of the group.
“SLAM! consistently did something each month of the year, and that’s not easy for a new group,” said Janet Cox, president and CEO of BACCHUS. “It all comes down to the students. They have to deliver the education that’s going to be meaningful to their peers.”
In April, SLAM! was named Student Organization of the Year at Polk State’s first Student Activities Leadership Awards Banquet.