BRISTOL, Tenn. – The 2018-19 academic year concluded the first year of the NCAA CHOICES grant for King University. King Athletics and Student Affairs worked together on this grant and the programming which benefitted both student-athletes and non-athletes. The grant focused on programming designed to educate King students in substance/alcohol abuse, sexual violence, mental health, hazing and the connection between these topics.
"Our goal is to provide our student-athletes with the resources and education to make responsible decisions in life," said Director of Athletics David Hicks. "The funding from the CHOICES grant has given us the resources to develop a comprehensive program to achieve these goals."
In connection with the grant, two King staff members attended a STEP UP! facilitator training program, bringing bystander intervention education back to campus, which was shared with the student-athletes throughout the year. Using the Step UP! curriculum, Assistant Athletic Director, Nancye Rahn, met with each team to educate them about sexual assault prevention through bystander intervention.
"Working with our teams and athletic staff on sexual assault prevention might have been one of the hardest and yet most rewarding things I have done at King," said Rahn. "The STEP UP! method made it easier to present the materials and keep the interest of our student-athletes."
Following the conclusion of those meetings, the program transitioned to a Safe Spring Break program that educated students about healthy choices while on spring break. In February King held a pre-spring break event that included members of the Bristol Police Department, King Security and King Athletics. The event provided activities that showed students what happens when they are impaired by using special goggles. Throughout the week there was a campaign providing different safety items distributed each day that included a special message relating to STEP UP! in situations where intervention may be necessary.
The year concluded with a tailgate at an athletic event with food and prizes, celebrating the first year of the STEP UP! program. Special shirts had been distributed to those who participated in educational programming during the year. Everyone was encouraged to wear their red shirts and provide a "red out" at the men's volleyball game that evening.
2018 King graduate Ben Allan provided the program with a marketing tagline and campaign; "STEP UP! Be A Leader, Be the Solution." He developed posters, t-shirts and other items given to students during the campaign.
Two staff members from King, head women's soccer coach Leah Presley and security records clerk, Lisa Baldwin, were certified at Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) training, enabling King to reinstate R.A.D. into the academic curriculum. In year two, King will send additional staff to "R.A.D. for Men," making that program available to students as well.
"In January I was able to attend the NCAA CHOICES grantee dinner, held in conjunction with the NASPA Strategies Conference," Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Matt Peltier said. "This was a great opportunity to connect with peers at other institutions to learn about their successes with their NCAA CHOICES grants. It was also a great learning and networking experience to be with colleagues focused on student wellness, substance abuse prevention, sexual assault prevention, and mental health. The NCAA CHOICES grant is enabling us to enhance our institutional awareness and programming related to these important issues."
The NCAA CHOICES grant is also making it possible to send a faculty member to Mental Health First Aid facilitator training during the summer. This will provide King with a staff member on campus who has the ability to work with coaches, faculty, staff and student groups to enhance mental health training and programs on campus.
As a condition of receiving the NCAA CHOICES grant, institutions are required to attend an APPLE conference at least once during the three-year term of the grant. The APPLE model is built on the belief that everyone in the athletics department must be empowered to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles, especially with the responsibility of alcohol use and performance-enhancing drugs. Each team is encouraged to take on one slice of the APPLE and bring it back to their campus.
King was able to send a full team of four students and two staff to this year's Division II APPLE Institute in Dallas, Texas. The APPLE team will use what they learned at the conference to provide education on policies and the impact to their health and performance to their peers during the 2019-20 academic year.
In subsequent years, King will use a portion of NCAA CHOICES grant funds to send two more students to learn the material and continue programming.
"Combining STEP UP! and APPLE education will be beneficial to our students," Rahn said. "We could not have provided these opportunities without the choices grant."