We’re pleased to announce that SSDP gained another chapter in the Northeast Region this week, as Green Mountain College SSDP became officially recognized on campus. Just over a month old, GMC SSDP has already attended an SSDP Activist Training and is about to hold their first meeting on campus. I got the chance to ask Mason, our chapter founder and president, about getting started with SSDP. This is what he had this to say about his experience:
SSDP: How did you hear about SSDP?
MASON: SSDP came into my life years ago but was placed in the filing cabinets of my mind. I have been dealing with an extensive recovery from a physical injury, inflicted in ’03. My right leg was broken, supposedly healed but didn’t, and in turn was worsened by a near fatal car accident in ’08, which focused attention on other, more serious, injuries that helped push a leg that had been broken for five years aside. The accident lead me to support my body weight with that broken leg until December 21, 2012, the day I had surgery and the world ended, as I knew it. The injury had clouded my awareness and ability to react when something potentially beneficial to all sentient beings and myself was presented, even when crystal clear.
During fall semester ‘12 I took a pilot course at Green Mountain College called Spirituality and Ecology. Linking spirituality and science the class had its ups and downs, but I personally walked away with a new outlook on life. Students were required to write a research paper between 12-15 pages on a chosen topic. Realizing that spirituality has been an integral aspect of my recovery, I did my best to research a topic that related to my personal experiences in life. Requirements for the assignment paled in comparison to my final product, which ended up being 35 pages, titled “Entheogenic Reformation.” During my research for this paper I happened upon the SSDP website and was re-enlightened. I’ve always wanted to leave a legacy at Green Mountain College and since the school was lacking, accordingly, I took it upon myself to start the chapter.
SSDP: Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
MASON: Through my recovery I feel my voice has not been heard. There are many alternatives to healing which the westernized systems laid forth for us has limited our ability to access them. I believe I would be in much more personal trouble if it wasn’t for my affinity towards these alternative avenues that have allowed me to better myself as a human being, while healing physically at the same time. SSDP has given me an outlet to tell my story where those who are willing to listen will hear my voice. The organization is also giving me the ability to do what I can to help incite change related to the war on drugs. Green Mountain College is a community thriving with innovative progressive thought and SSDP compliments the state of mind. Even when I cannot be involved with the chapter after graduation, I hope to instill interest within the Green Mountain College community that continues to grow with or without me.
SSDP: What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration?
MASON: Students, faculty, and administration have each given SSDP a warm welcome to the community as the majority feel it is needed on campus. Faculty advisor Professor Mark Dailey agreed without question to oversee the recently established chapter and although he has limited availability to be involved with setting up meetings, he desires to be informed and is willing to lend a helping hand when time permits. Another Professor, involved in the biology department, encouraged me to bridge the gap between SSDP and Green Mountain College’s eight-year strategic plan called Sustainability 2020. The objective stated is, “through innovative education and research, Green Mountain College, Vermont will achieve authentic sustainability by the end of this decade.” In order to reach the goal Green Mountain College will utilize adaptive systems including but not limited to organization structure and clear measures of progress. SSDP will help improve the human health and quality of life, student and employee engagement and well-being, and also qualifies as a low-residency academic program. With the support of these two Professors I was able to bring SSDP to the Club Assembly, which inducts new clubs. This required me to present in front of about 30, attractive, but critical students along with administration. By connecting the dots with Sustainability 2020 and making proper use of resources provided by SSDP I was able to get near unanimous vote, only three people abstained.
SSDP What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
MASON: Oh boy, where do I start? Honestly novel ideas seem to be flooding my mind since being inducted President of the chapter. I’ve made the connection with affiliated non-profit organization Dance Safe and believe our SSDP chapter could help instigate the initiation of Dance Safe into the greater community in Poultney, Vermont. This would give students another outlet to set goals related to ending the war on drugs, while bringing community members who may not be involved on campus. A fresh mind, student or not, brings new perspective, which I believe is necessary to view the big picture. Members of the Dance Safe chapter would be able to represent the movement throughout the music scene at festivals and other events. Along with getting involved with Dance Safe I hope to make a connection with Amplify, a sponsored project of SSDP.
Although the former goal extends beyond next semester I feel it pertains but more thoughts have been brewing. After speaking with Outreach Director, Devon Tackels, I was informed that members of the SSDP Office in DC are willing to visit schools that reach out. It seems realistic that someone from DC could come to Green Mountain College and give a workshop or lecture to help educate the student base on what it means to be an advocate for drug policy. I would also like to take a group of students to any future boot camps that take place because Boston was truly a touching experience for me, and seemingly each person who attended.
SSDP: What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
MASON: Being on crutches and in a wheel chair hasn’t helped me that’s for sure, but has also allowed me to focus my time. Other than personal challenges the experience has been a blast. I still need to do a lot of work before holding the first meeting. I am reaching out and establishing a base of Official Leaders whom are dependable and motivated. Time is currently of the essence. So, I’m doing the best I can to make this happen as soon as possible, and hope to hold a meeting before the end of the semester.
SSDP: What is the most rewarding part?
MASON: Finding my voice in this world has opened doors I thought were distant, but I’ve turned the knob, jumped down the rabbit hole, and have the ability to tell my story and make a difference myself while helping others initiate change. I have to thank SSDP for this because otherwise I may still think certain aspects of my life, of which I truly believe in, are a lost cause. Also, I have to say it felt pretty good to see our chapter posted on the website.
SSDP: What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
MASON: Green Mountain College has a Good Samaritan policy and I would like to further this by making drug test kits, for the safety of the student body, from Dance Safe available in dorms, near the condoms, or in the hands of a trained Resident Assistant. Once this has been established I would like for the chapter to push and make the kits available through the Vermont Department of Health for the safety of residents and visitors in the state. Also marijuana reformation seems to be on the horizon here in Vermont and I’d like to get on that bus and get involved in the legislative process.
SSDP: What is your vision for SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
MASON: If my vision hasn’t clearly been expressed already, I believe SSDP is going to benefit all societies by helping shift cultures towards a more positive light where the global population doesn’t have to worry about incarceration over individual rights. In a year I envision Green Mountain College’s chapter completing goals mentioned while realizing new progressive ways to approach the war on drugs. Down the road in 4 or 5 we’ll be making a difference that’s newsworthy.