Roshni Saxena began her St. Patrick’s Day celebration early with a single-serve box of Lucky Charms cereal and universally useful dose of alcohol education courtesy of Hokie Wellness.

“It’s wonderful. It’s the best of both worlds,” said Saxena, a sophomore studying computer science. “I learned that if someone feels uncomfortable in a situation where there might be a drunk driver…they should speak up and try to come up with a different way to get home.”

Saxena was one of dozens of Virginia Tech students who took part in Hokie Wellness’ Alcohol Education Outreach program in advance of the university’s well-being day on March 17. Five well-being days were established this year to provide students an opportunity to rest and recharge while also helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday many people connect with drinking, so with students also having the day off, we want them to have the information they need to make good decisions and stay as safe as possible while enjoying the day,” said Kelsey O’Hara-Marasigan, assistant director of Hokie Wellness.

Providing students safe ways to enjoy themselves during Wednesday’s well-being day is at the heart of Winterfest 2021. Hosted by a variety of Student Affairs departments, the event at the Rec Sports Athletic Park and Prairie Quad will feature an ice-skating rink, photobooth, giveaways, and more. Students must sign up in advance to attend.

For students who may choose to include drinking in their day, Hokie Wellness staff and members of the Peer Education and Prevention Team, IMPACT, aim to drive home safety tips via a St. Patrick’s Day themed golf cart. Parking the goodie-filled cart at various locations around the Blacksburg campus, the group invited students to take part in a Party Positive activity to help students better understand strategies to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

People standing near golf cart
Kelsey O'Hara-Marasigan, an assistant director with Hokie Wellness, hands out St. Patrick's Day-themed goodie bags to participants. Photo by Travis Williams for Virginia Tech.

O’Hara-Marasigan shared three quick tips that can be used by any person at any time:

Decide your vibe

“Do you want to include alcohol in your plans? Consider the pros and cons. One compromise is to attend a social gathering with your pod or a small group outside and not drink, but still get the social and mental well-being benefits. Using self-care as a reason to be sober for the night is always socially acceptable!”

Setting up for success

“People always want to know a magic cure for a hangover and our main, and really only, tip to truly prevent one is to not drink too much. If you decide to include alcohol, set yourself up for success now and for tomorrow by setting a drink limit. Choosing more trackable drinks like bottles or cans of beer or hard seltzer are helpful because they are the easiest to count.”

Put in the prep work

“It’s harder to make decisions, including sticking to COVID-related precautions, later when you’ve had something to drink. Leave your house hydrated and with a full stomach. Decide your ride home ahead of time and communicate it to friends. By planning ahead you’ll maximize the social time without as many negative physical and mental side effects.”

Students being mindful of the wellness of themselves and others is also at the core of #VTBetterTogether, a public health campaign to support mental health in the Virginia Tech community.

Written by Travis Williams