The 21st Birthday Project helps students cut their risks

21st Birthday Project patch on backpack

Turning 21 can be an exciting time for college students. Considered by many as a celebratory rite of passage, reaching the legal drinking age in Oregon can also present challenges.

Students may find themselves being pressured to drink more alcohol than they previously have, or drink heavily in a short amount of time. Those challenges and others prompted the creation of the 21st Birthday Project.

In the week leading up to turning 21, students receive an invitation by email to attend a brief information session with a peer educator in the Office of the Dean of Students. If they opt in to participate, students are entered in a drawing for on- and off-campus prizes.

“I hope that the 21st Birthday Project helps get students thinking about what it is they really want for their 21st birthday and even beyond,” said Mila Meldosian, one of the contributors to the project.

The sessions are supported by the Substance Abuse Prevention and Education team, offering information that can be applicable to any situations where drinking may occur, not only a one-time occasion such as a birthday celebration.

“It’s been awesome to see that it’s not just helpful for them but they’re also able to translate some of that information back to friends,” said Alexis Drakatos, substance abuse prevention coordinator.

No matter a student’s previous experience with alcohol, the peer educators answer questions and provide whatever information students want or need.

“We really want to meet the student where they’re at,” Drakatos said. “We’ll go over harm-reduction skills, as well as campus resources.”

Taking the time to establish a plan for an exciting night or gather information to make the best decisions on an individualized basis is what the program is all about.

“We’re here to help students, not dictate what they should or shouldn’t be doing or whether or not they should be drinking on their 21st birthday,” Meldosian said. “We’re here as a resource.”

—By Sarah Bathke, Student Services and Enrollment Management