It’s with great joy that I introduce Zechariah “Zech” Hilles and the Rollins College SSDP chapter. Located in Orlando, Florida, this is the tenth currently active chapter to join our network in the state of Florida. Zechariah reached out about starting a dual SSDP and Psychedelic club situation on his campus, after getting the idea from a Chapter Leader in the University of North Dakota chapter. Zech is very passionate about increasing the accessibility to psychedelics for research and medicine, as well as advancing our society’s understanding around drugs and drug use. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Zech and ask some questions about his chapter moving forward: How did you hear about SSDP?
I stumbled across SSDP while looking to start a Psychedelic Club. I heard about Psychedelic Club through a Leafly News article called “How Psychedelic Clubs are changing the conversations about drugs on Campus” written by Bailey Rahn. In reaching out to Psychedelic Club leaders across the county, I met Will Beaton, who founded the Psychedelic Club of North Dakota. He told me about partnering with SSDP. I started doing research on the website and instantly fell in love with the mission of SSDP. Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I am a student of psychology; I have a dream of becoming a psychotherapist and working with healing patients through psychedelic medicine. The goal of the Psychedelic Club is to engage in conversations about drugs on campus and break down a lot of the negative stereotypes about drugs and drug users on campus. I partnered with SSDP so that I can create a safer campus by engaging in discussions about creating safer policies on our campus and educating students about the war on drugs. What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
I had a very tough road at first trying to start a chapter on my campus. It took me a lot of emails and pleas to try to find a faculty advisor for our club. After a few weeks of searching, we finally found an administrator that had experienced a crisis involving drugs firsthand and that realized the need for a safer and smarter campus. We affectionately call her our club mother. Since the club’s start, we see more and more students each week asking about the club and showing up to meetings. I have gained the support of the administration now, and they have been wonderful at helping getting the club up and running. We’re going to be in full swing next semester to educate the students and play our part in ending the war on drugs. What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
At the start of next semester, I will be holding weekly peer to peer drug counseling classes to all students that are interested. We would also like to invite some guest speakers out, hold a tye-dying and drug education workshop, both movie and Ted Talk nights, as well as reaching out to local law enforcement and local hospitals to open the conversation about what programs are in place for drugs in our community and what we can do about them. What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
The most challenging part of running my chapter is finding all the time of day for it! I’m employed full time during the day and go to school on a full schedule at nights, as do most of the people in the club. We had to schedule our meetings on Sunday nights as the only time we could all find free! I will also say that before starting this club, I had fear of public speaking. This club has been helping me face my fears and share my voice with students on campus. What is the most rewarding part?
I would say that hands down most rewarding part to me about the club is getting the opportunity to teach students about the breakthrough therapies that are happening with Psychedelics. I have been able to spread the word about Psychedelics and have changed a lot of student’s perspectives on their place as a medicine in society. I have also enjoyed reaching out to everyone in the SSDP community. They have been some of the most friendly and helpful people that I have encountered and make it so easy to start a club in your area! What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
I am really excited about the phase 3 FDA trials for MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. I make announcements about the research that MAPS is conducting at all of my meetings and it is my dream to have Rick Doblin come and speak to our school! What is your vision for Rollins? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
I hope that our club can lead a campus into adopted smarter and more sensible drug policies. I would like help open the dialogue about drugs on our campus and break down a lot of the stereotypes about drugs that exist in our community. I would like the chapter to grow its voice and visions with more and more students so that we can not only start the discussion about drugs, but keep it going year after year. I would like to build a strong enough foundation for the Psychedelic Club that it grows to be accepted into the community and treated as family.