Drug-free weekend offers sober merrymaking

by Beacon Staff • January 31, 2007

The events, which ran from Thursday, Jan. 25 to Sunday, Jan. 29, were designed to encourage Emerson students to pledge to remain drug and alcohol free for the weekend by providing them with fun alternatives.,Students found an alternative to the stereotypical party life last weekend at Emerson's annual Free for the Weekend events, sponsored by Student Life.

The events, which ran from Thursday, Jan. 25 to Sunday, Jan. 29, were designed to encourage Emerson students to pledge to remain drug and alcohol free for the weekend by providing them with fun alternatives.

"I think people feel that they need to use substances in order to have a good time, but these events prove that isn't the case," said Tim Stokel, a junior theatre education major.

Stokel spent Saturday afternoon in the Cabaret in the Little Building, where students could visit a health nutritionist and decorate infant onesies for expectant mothers while eagerly awaiting appointments with psychics.

"I pledges because I think this is for a good cause," Stokel said. 279 students pledged this year: 203 were on-campus students and 68 were off-campus.

Laura Collins, one of the co-chairs of the events and the coordinator of Wellness Education, said that between 300 and 500 students pledge each year. She said that almost all pledges come to at least one event, though some just want to challenge themselves by signing the pledge.

A wide variety of activities were offered in hopes that at least one activity would interest participating students. The weekend opened on Thursday night in the Bill Bordy Theater and Auditorium with kickoff speaker Darcie Fisher and hypnotist Him Spinnato.

Thursday night's kickoff speaker and Emerson alumna, Darcie Fisher, gave students who pledged but are not always substance free a new perspective.

Fisher, a former reporter from the WB 56, now called the CW, shared her personal experiences. Her brother is currently in jail because of heroin addiction, according to Collins.

On Friday, students played in the beer goggles foosball tournament in West I II of the Little Building and enjoyed performances by Emerson's comedy troupes in the Bill Bordy Theater.

Saturday afternoon, if students weren't visiting the psychics, they were getting massages and playing movie trivia in West I II.

Students attended both trivia night and open mic on Saturday night. Both events are recent additions to the weekend program.

Jill Lagana, the other co-chair of the event and the assistant to the Dean of Students, said that over seventy students attended open mic.

"It was a fabulous turnout," Lagana said. Students performed slam poetry and stand-up comedy, read monologues and played music.

Erika Rydberg, a junior double major in communication studies and WLP, appreciated the wealth of things to do during the substance-free weekend.

"There are so many activities offered, and I would rather be here than out drinking beacuse this is a unique and fun experience," said Rydberg who is also the president of Imagine, an on-campus community service and advocacy organization.

On Saturday, Imagine ran the table in the Cabaret where Stokel decorated onesies. All of the onesies will go to the Welcome Baby program in Boston, which offers community service opportunities to help families in need.

"This is one of Imagine's best events of the year, because our events usually involve going out in the community," Rydberg said. "But this is an event that brings the community to Emerson."

Students also connect through their choice to remain sober.

Amanda Newcomb, a freshman film major, said "I pledged because I have friends who have defiled their bodies with substance abuse, and I do not want to defile my body that way. I have better things to do with my time."

Meaghan Moulton, also a freshman film major, shares Newcomb's views.

"I don't feel like Emerson is a party school," said Moulton. "I am around people who are focused and who love what they do. This is a permanent thing for me, because I am already drug and alcohol free."

At the closing ceremonies on Sunday night, a documentary by students Ashley Porter and Emily Egan was played.

The two students offered to cover the events and interview students at the request of Lagana.

"I was inspired by the recap video for orientation, Fast Forward/Rewind, used to show the highlights of the orientation," Lagana said. "We wanted to capture the highlights of Free for the Weekend."

Collins discussed her ultimate goal for the weekend.

"It is a very positive thing to challenge yourself once in awhile," Collins said. "So many positive things come from making healthy choices. It is empowering to have that self-control."