One Year Later: My Experience Transitioning from Student to Alumni Activism

It was almost one year ago exactly that I made that most anticipated walk, away from college and into the rest of my life. For me, like so many others, the bittersweet success of graduation was amplified by the thought of leaving behind my role as an SSDP chapter leader. I was more than confident in our chapter’s future, but I was unsure what my role in SSDP would now be, if any. No longer a student, I wondered if I had lost my voice in this movement; I found myself faced with the challenge of transforming my activism into something that would continue to be productive, while also wanting to give back to the organization that had helped shape me into the person I am today. If you are a soon-to-be or recently graduated SSDPer, these feelings may be familiar to you. You may not have landed a sweet job in drug policy (yet), but can’t imagine your life without the drug policy reform movement. Or maybe you graduated a while ago but wish you could still be involved with SSDP. In any case, here are a few things that I have realized in the last twelve months:emily-cotter

It’s easy to stay involved with your former chapter. Like so many others, our chapter has grown into a close-knit group of friends even beyond the bonds we share as drug policy activists and students. I am a recent graduate who lives nearby the university that I attended, so I am able to hang out with our chapter, attend events, or drop in on a meeting every once in awhile. But even if you have moved away, it’s easy to stay connected through email, phone, and social media. You’ll stay in the loop as to what the chapter is working on, and they’ll know you’re available to them as a resource.

Conferences are just as magical as alumni. I was fortunate to be able to attend both the Drug Policy Alliance Reform Conference and the SSDP International Conference since graduating last May. At first, I was unsure, but I am so glad I was able to attend both – the conference experience was just as energizing and inspiring as an alumna as it was as a student, and it helped to solidify my transition from student to alumni activist. If your budget allows, I would definitely recommend trying to attend at least one conference in the year or so after you graduate. Plus, if you are close with current students or alumni in your area, you might be able to catch a ride with them!

You don’t have to leave SSDP behind as just a part of your college experience. And you shouldn’t! I wasn’t ready to leave SSDP in my past, and that’s why I am so excited to be part of the SSDP Alumni Association. The Alumni Mentor and Chapter Advisor programs that we are developing will be a resource for individuals and chapters to build, maintain, and pass on connections, experiences, and tools that can help to ensure a strong future for sensible drug policy everywhere. Each chapter (as well as the SSDP network, and the drug policy reform movement as a whole) is kind of like a dog sled team in the long race to end the War on Drugs – success is all about cooperation and endurance, sometimes in the face of challenging conditions. But they also just seem to be having a ridiculous amount of fun.

Whether you like metaphors, are recently graduated, or just want to give back to an organization you love, joining the Alumni Association is a great way to ensure that SSDP continues to be more than just a formative part of your young adulthood. And it’s easy! Learn more about the Alumni Association here, and join us today!