Given the alcohol-and-drug-fueled, weekend party culture that has historically often been an integral part of college life, colleges and universities are not the easiest places to begin and sustain recovery from substance abuse. But, as the nationwide campus recovery movement has gained momentum, students have access to more programs designed to address their specific needs and provide the support needed to achieve lasting recovery from drugs and alcohol.
One of the oldest and most successful such programs is the StepUP residential recovery community on the campus of Augsburg College in Minneapolis. The 20-year old program has served more than 800 students, and is the largest collegiate recovery program in the nation, according to StepUP Director Patrice Salmeri.
The StepUP Program’s objectives are to help students champion lives of recovery, achieve academic success, and thrive in a community of accountability and support.
StepUP provides student housing in a substance-free residence hall on campus. located in the Oren Gateway Center. The StepUP Program is not a treatment program, but a recovery-based support program that provides structure for the students enrolled.
Students attend weekly meetings with alcohol and drug counselors in the StepUP Program. The meetings are designed to monitor and enhance a student’s recovery protection plan, academic success, and community living issues, according to Salmeri.
The StepUP Program requires that each student attend classes regularly, be responsible for attending mandatory meetings, and most importantly, refraining from using drugs or alcohol. Unlike treatment, however, there is no curfew and there is little monitoring of students’ daily activities. The program is designed to give students a full, enriched collegiate experience.
Several 12-step recovery groups are available on campus, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Eating Disorders Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon. Students also have access to other, campus-based support services, such as other counseling offered through the School’s Center for Wellness and Counseling, student health clinic, student health insurance, and academic skills coaches.
Community service and outreach is also part of the program. The StepUP Program students are frequently asked to share their personal experiences and individual stories with various audiences across the Twin Cities. The students are encouraged to participate in service and outreach opportunities as part of their recovery journey
According to the school, StepUP students participate in more than 175 hours of community service outreach each year, including presentations at public schools, recovery high schools, college and university classes, community parent groups and chemical dependency treatment settings.
According to data collected by program staff, StepUP participants have achieved an average rate of successful abstinence well above 90 percent, year to year, and an average of 93 percent successful abstinence from 2007 to 2016. The cumulative, mean GPA of all students served by the StepUP program while they attended classes at Augsburg from 1997 to 2016 was 3.2 out of 4.0.
StepUP held its annual graduation ceremony in April, with 30 students graduating from the program, 17 of whom were also Augsburg graduating seniors. Speaking at the ceremony, Vice President of Student Affairs Ann Garvey, said one of StepUP’s sources of strength is its “constantly growing network of alumni.”