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Augsburg students 'step up'

College housing and counseling support students in recovery

As a chemical dependency counselor, Dave Hadden used to take young people from Hazelden, an alcohol and drug treatment center, to Augsburg College, Minneapolis, on field trips. “I wanted them to glimpse what life in recovery could be,” he said.

Now Hadden is one of four full-time counselors for Augsburg’s StepUP program, which helps students manage their recovery from substance addictions and deal with the usual collegiate worries—a poor grade, a bad break-up, fear of failing.Any of these could make a student in recovery “feel like using,” he said.

StepUP students Eric (left), Britta,
StepUP students Eric (left), Britta, Matt and Justin take a break from coursework at Augsburg College, Minneapolis. StepUP helps students deal with their substance addictions and handle the stress of college.
That’s where StepUP comes in, with chemical-free housing and kitchens for 64 students in the college’s Oren Gateway Center. In addition to support from a dependency counselor, they attend weekly “circle” meetings with peers and staff, and residence hall floor meetings. They also get help with academic skills.

The students, age 16 to 26, must have six months of continuous sobriety and must apply to Augsburg, paying the same tuition and room and board as other students.

StepUP students are required to have weekly contact with their Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous sponsor and attend a minimum of two meetings per week. They also agree to ongoing monitoring. They can drop in on, call or receive visits from the program’s licensed counselors: StepUP director Patrice Salmeri, Hadden, Eileen Mitchell and Jamie Hedin.

Throughout the year, staff schedule field trips—equine therapy, ropes course, paintball, snow-tubing and even women’s spa retreats. Students are matched with sponsors, including some Minneapolis-area alumni.

“A lot of our students seek a supportive community,” Salmeri said. “Augsburg’s educational excellence is icing on the cake.”

Similar programs exist at other universities, Salmeri added, “but ours is the most comprehensive because we have both housing and support for 64 students.”


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