Student-Organized Panel for College-Bound Teens Features Valuable Advice

By Jackson Kim, GHS Class of 2024

At the Greenwich Library Marx Family Black Box Theater on Thursday, the Greenwich High School Rowan Center Advisory Board partnered with the Rowan Center and the Greenwich Library for a panel on college safety aimed at high school juniors and seniors and their family.

During the hour-long meeting, panelists Sarah Molhotra from The Rowan Center, Deputy Chief of Police at UCONN Magdalena Silver, Colleen Sherry from Fordham EMS, and Ellen Brezovsky from Kids in Crisis answered questions from the GHS students who organized the panel that centered around the transition from high school to college.

Panelists were asked what they thought were the most pressing issues for students going into college. Their responses included the challenges to managing time compared to high school, fitting into a campus that is potentially much larger and more diverse than high school, and finding a healthy balance between being independent and still relying on parents or friends.

The second question focused on why the problems mentioned previously occurred. The panelists talked about how the desire for students to be independent after going to college can sometimes lead them to abstain from asking their parents or friends for help to not seem weak. They said students who are lonely, scared, or want to fit in are more likely to turn to substance abuse, and that finding an activity you enjoy and being patient with yourself can help with adjusting to college and meeting new people.

Next, panelists were asked how poor mental health can affect already stressful situations in college, and how to be proactive in terms of mental health.

They stressed the importance of doing research into your chosen college and the services it provides before you arrive instead of waiting until you get there. Parents were told to make sure that they can stay in contact with their children through releases from their providers or becoming their healthcare proxy so their child’s healthcare provider will talk to them.

They also discussed general safety rules regarding alcohol and other drugs, such as how many sexual assaults on college campuses are alcohol related, knowing the potentially dangerous interactions alcohol can have with medications like painkillers, how alcohol is not an invitation and does not mean consent, and ways to look out for yourself and others, like not leaving your drink unattended, taking the keys of people who are drunk, and calling for help if there is an emergency without worrying about getting into trouble, since Good Samaritan Laws will prevent that from happening if your intention was to help someone.

The next topic discussed was domestic abuse on college campuses. The panelists highlighted how victims of domestic abuse often struggle with talking to others about it because of shame, embarrassment, and thinking that people will say to simply leave their partner when they are not always capable of doing so. They mentioned how social workers on campus know how to deal with domestic abuse and even suggested that victims may want to bring their partners to meetings with a social worker as well, because they may think what they are doing is normal  because of childhood experiences.

The meeting then moved on to audience questions, which included topics like how to defuse situations through distraction, delegation, or being direct, as well as preventative measures like using shuttles or asking strangers so you do not have to travel alone at night or having medication like Tylenol available on hand, and they repeated the suggestion to do research into what services your college provides beforehand.

At the conclusion of the panel, panelists summarized by saying that many great things can come out of college, but poor decisions can have lifelong negative consequences, so it is important to be prepared and think proactively, along with a reminder that college staff want to support students and that they are also potential mental health resources if you need them.

The meeting ended with a thank you from the panelists to the Greenwich Library, the head of the Rowan Center advisory board, who was in the audience, and the students who organized the event.