Written by Sam Evans ‘20, UConn Hartford SSDP Chapter Leader
How did you hear about SSDP?
I first heard about SSDP through an event that Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) held several years back and have also seen SSDP mentioned on maps.org.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I wanted to get involved and establish a chapter at the University of Connecticut, Hartford regional campus because I saw the work that SSDP has done to be most encouraging, and also because it is the duty of all social workers to provide some of our time and efforts towards advocating for our client populations and the general public in the aim of increasing social justice. Such a chapter and student organization can aid greatly to not only the university culture, but the surrounding Hartford community as well.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
So far, mostly everyone I have been in contact with via email or through online video conferences (students, faculty, and administration included) regarding establishing such a chapter and student organization have been very receptive to my efforts. They have resonated well with the mission of SSDP Global, and we are awaiting Hartford Student Activities’ review and approval of the student organization.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
One of the things I have planned/am planning for the semester is to hold (as an organization, virtually) psychoeducational presentations on substances to educate students (and staff) through a harm reduction lens and approach. Some other things we, as a group hope to pursue are “Race and community dialogues,” community outreach activities (perhaps with the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition, CCAR, and other such organizations), to collaborate with the UConn Diversity and Inclusion, maybe create a Gofundme page for a non-profit in the area/community, and to do toiletry and resource (clothes, hats, coats, etc.) drives for the homeless in the Greater Hartford community.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Mainly due to COVID, it has been hard to garner student member support and interest since most everything is being done virtually right now. Finding time to meet as a group has been difficult too, as most students involved are very busy with studies, internship, and (for a few) work.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part has been seeing the validation on student’s and faculty’s faces of the need and importance of such a student org and chapter. Hearing personal stories of how people’s family members and/or friends have been wrongfully harmed from the “War on Drugs” has been most intimate and insightful for me.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region right now?
I am most excited to get the ball rolling with some virtual events during the remainder of the fall semester.
What is your vision for your SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
My vision for SSDP is to see it flourish as a community resource in addition to flourishing as a student organization and chapter. In a year, I see the chapter involved in a number of other student organizations and clubs, and fellowship programs and organizations as well. I really hope to see a policy proposal coming from SSDP within 4 or 5 years’ time, either at the campus and/or state level!