WAVES recovery initiative on campus


Illustration by Laura Baker

Mason was awarded a $10,000 grant to start an on-campus recovery community to support those recovering from substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors.

The grant was awarded to Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education and Services over the summer through Transforming Youth Recovery, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013.  TYR provides the foundation for a support system for college students going through recovery on campus.

“TYR is trying to kick-start a lot of universities,” WAVES Associate Director Elaine Viccora said.

“We had to put together a needs assessment justification and a game plan on how we would spend the funds,” Viccora said.  “TYR, the entity, is really big into capacity building and they were actually very eager for George Mason to apply because we are such a large public institution.  They thought that we would be an ideal place to start growing and have a capacity built for students in recovery.”

Recovery Coordinator Cait Woods is a student who was hired part time to help kick-start the recovery movement.

“College is a very high-risk environment for people in addiction recovery,” Woods said. “There tends to be parties where there tends to be high-risk substance use and for someone in addiction recovery, especially if they are away from home and they are out of their support network, there can be a return to use if there’s not proper support in place.”

This grant will help WAVES create a support network on campus for students in addiction recovery.  Woods will help raise awareness on campus and create fun opportunities for students in recovery to connect on a personal level while they pursue their academic and personal goals.  WAVES has already started a student organization called Addiction Recovery for Mason Students.

“It is a way for students to connect with other students.  In the future we are going to have activities on and around campus,” Woods said.  “We are trying to create a fun environment for students who want a fun, sober, supportive environment so that they have an alternative to parties.”

TYR grantees receive access to the online Community Asset Map, a resource that helps form connections within the collegiate recovery community.  The Asset Map serves as a resource for students and will provide Mason with the opportunity to form relationships across the country with other addiction recovery participants.

Schools like Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia and George Washington University have also received grant funding for their own student recover plans.

“There are a couple of other big institutions, Rutgers and Texas Tech being two of them, and they are like at the very front edge of collegiate recovery communities,’ Viccora said.  “So we have models out there of big public universities really creating incredible systems and support for students in recovery.  We are very much at the beginning embryo stage, but we see what our future could look like and it’s really exciting.”