While “Rams Take Care, Rams Take Action” is a well-known phrase across campus, this mindset is present daily for CREWS Peer Educators.
CREWS, which stands for Creating Respect, Educating Wellness (for and by) Students, is a diverse, trained peer education team who help fellow Rams make safer, healthier decisions about alcohol, sexual health and nicotine. CREWS members earn upper-level academic credits and become trained in the areas of listening skills, teaching and presentation techniques, risk reduction and resource and referral skills. They teach 9,000-10,000 students annually through educational programs and initiatives. One of their most popular initiatives occurs in an unexpected place: during CSU home football games.
CREWS, in partnership with CSU athletics, first started delivering football game-day programming in 2010. This consisted of CREWS members providing a tailgating intervention with students in the Hughes stadium parking lot before each home game. The partnership expanded when CSU’s on-campus stadium open its doors in 2017 and staff at CSU Health Network and Athletics saw an opportunity to develop a new culture around game-day alcohol use.
“Our main goal with this intervention is to increase positive health behaviors and support harm reduction among the student body at CSU through this non-judgmental initiative”, said Gwen Sieving, CREWS advisor and manager of sexual health and outreach initiatives at CSU Health Network.
The program incorporates several empirically supported behavior change strategies including motivational interviewing, public commitments and the use of RTCRTA branded merchandise. CSU students are asked to complete a pledge stating how they will take care of their fellow Rams on game day. In return, they are given branded CSU swag, such as bandanas, hats or fanny packs.
“We get to talk to so many students and it’s a period where we all reflect on how we can bring our community closer and make safer informed decisions,” said CREWS member Jade Hoard. “I feel so much more connected to CSU, my peers, and traditions by getting involved.”
CREWS is in its fifth season of having a presence at Canvas Stadium. Programming aims to encourage students to practice protective behavior by engaging students during game day, which is a high-risk time for social alcohol use.
“Gwen and CREWS have been a wonderful partner to Athletics since we opened Canvas Stadium in 2017,” said Steve Cottingham, deputy director of Athletics. “Their peer education efforts have greatly helped us in building a game environment for students that is positive and enjoyable for all fans. While hosting more than 10,000 students per game we experience very minimal behavioral and alcohol problems with students in significant part because of the good work done by CREWS.”
CREWS members find the initiative to be a very rewarding experience. “Being able to have positive interactions that help my fellow students’ safety with alcohol through peer-to-peer contact is greatly valuable to me,” said CREWS member Bo Wallace. “Helping my community during the football games has been a fantastic way to give back as well as gain personal fulfillment.”
The success of the game day initiative is well documented. In 2018, Patricia Aloise-Young, CSU Department of Psychology, and Jennifer Cross, CSU Department of Sociology and director for The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, studied the impact of the bystander intervention on protective behavior. It was found that students who pledged to engage in protective behavioral strategies and subsequently remembered their pledge, reported greater use of both personal and bystander protective behavioral strategies.
“I’ve been collaborating with Gwen Sieving and her CREWS team for more than a decade, and the results of this evaluation show that the program is having an impact,” said Aloise-Young. “Rams Take Care, Rams Take Action is an evidence-based program that improves our campus community and CSU students recognize its value.”
Sieving is also proud of the partnership to make this initiative possible. “CREWS has been doing some of iteration of this program for 12 years. Through this research project, we are excited to be able to provide credibility that demonstrates our dedication to the well-being of the CSU student body. CREWS is honored to help students at CSU stay safe in regards to alcohol use on home football game weekends.”