There are a variety of barriers that can prevent student-athletes from maintaining wellness and the NCAA’s APPLE Training Institute is helping to end them. This year, the Wilson Center for Innovation & Leadership helped students attend.

The nationally recognized program — held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, from January 13-15 — aims to promote student-athlete wellness and substance abuse prevention. It creates a space where student-athletes can discuss their unique college experiences, collaborate on relevant issues prevalent in the student-athlete community, and build innovative foundations and solutions to enhance campus-wellness efforts.

Lessons from the Institute

Carson Dunn ’18, a mathematics major, says that hands-on learning approaches and facilitated discussions “have helped me learn what needs to be done on our campus as well as improve my leadership abilities as a whole.” The NCAA’s APPLE Institute not only facilitated his personal growth, but also reinvigorated his desire to bring about change for the Grinnell College community.

Maggie Remus ’18, an economics major, found that the institute fostered discussions that encouraged her to take on the challenges of being a student-athlete and to embrace this identity as a platform for change at Grinnell. She writes, “Throughout the weekend our group gained information about how to execute innovative strategies to improve the overall student athlete experience. We worked with groups from other colleges to develop action plans to bring back to campus.”

Nathan Zaroban ’18, a biological chemistry major writes that, “As part of the conference, we put together an action plan of how we wanted to address these issues when we got back to campus.” He describes that working with other student-athletes over a three-day period helped him to reflect on the student-athlete experience which helped frame the action plan he hopes to implement on campus.

Lauren Hurley ’18, a psychology major, writes, “The perspective of schools similar to ours and those that were very different gave invaluable insight into how substances abuse occurs on other campuses.” She describes that collaborative workshops with other student-athletes broadened her understanding of substance abuse — among other issues — allowing her to develop potential initiatives as well as to recalibrate previous ideas for reform.

What’s Next?

Zaroban found that, “It was very rewarding and motivating to hear that we at Grinnell College are so far ahead of the game in terms of both the institutional and peer support we give our students.”

However, he recognized that there were improvements to be made in other areas and immediate action steps to follow at Grinnell.

Zaroban says that he along with Dunn, Remus and Hurley “will be meeting with Athletic Director Andrew Hamilton to present some of our concerns and discuss how we should go about fixing them.” They hope to improve the student-athlete experience through developing comprehensive and cohesive wellness reforms related to mental illness and substance abuse preventions, framed by both student-athletes and faculty. Not only would this benefit the student-athlete community, but it would also have a long-lasting impact on the community atmosphere at Grinnell.

Dunn, Remus, Zaroban, and Hurley had different experiences at the institute that resulted in similar outcomes. They all appreciated the institute for teaching them the meaning of leadership as student-athletes and providing them the necessary training to establish innovative reforms for the Grinnell College community.

The students were sponsored by the Wilson Center, which seeks to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders through courses, professional development, and events that emphasize experiential learning.

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