Kutztown— The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board awarded 61 grants totaling $2.14 million across the state of Pennsylvania with Kutztown receiving the largest amount.
“We want students and young people to get the message that alcohol must be used responsibly and that drinking to excess is a risk to their own personal safety as well as others,” said Sen. Judy Schwank.
The PLCB grants will help fund prevention programs focused on underage and college-age alcohol consumption and support related law-enforcement activities.
Kutztown Borough received $36,615 and Kutztown University received $39,986 for a combined $76,601.
Schwank announced the recipients of the awards Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Kutztown Borough Hall Train Station. The PLCB’s Bureau of Alcohol Education will pay the grants over a two-year period.
“The grants are quarter-matching grants so they have to match whatever they ask for, they have to be willing to match a quarter of it,” said Jerry Waters, Sr., director office of regulatory affairs for the Liquor Control Board.
Very competitive,115 organizations applied for a share of the $2.1 million program.
“With the university’s money, a lot of that is going to come downtown and educate off-campus students” said Mayor Sandy Green. “I’m seeing a little bit of a change as mayor where more students are wanting to be more involved. They want to help; they want to volunteer. They’re on the walk in KUBOK.”
“I think we’re heading in a really good direction with all this education and people working together; university and community. That was always my goal; that was my platform when I ran in 2005,” said Green.
“Locally, the grant funding will be used for the three E’s—education, evaluation, and enforcement,” said Senator Judy Schwank.
Schwank said everyone was brought to Kutztown because the largest share of the grant-funding is here with more than $75,000 awarded between the borough and the university combined.
“Kutztown Borough and university officials have been pro-active and diligent in addressing alcohol related issues,” Schwank said.
Schwank noted that a year and a half ago, Mayor Green had requested her help to convene a task force to look at issues the community was facing as a result of dangerous alcohol abuse. Not only did borough representatives and Kutztown Borough Police attend, but university officials and University Police, members from the PLCB, liquor control enforcement officers, District Attorney John Adams were also represented there, and most important was the presence of students at this meeting.
“We were able to work out a number of initiatives that I think have helped stem the tide,” said Schwank. “I’m hearing from the mayor this morning that things are a little bit better this year and with this grant-funding, I expect that things will continue to improve on the campus and in the community as well.”
Health and Wellness Ambassadors and recipients of the PLCB awards Madeline Dworak, vice-president, Kayla Mellinger, president, and Kristen Nisbet, member of the off-campus living program for drugs and alcohol, conduct peer counseling to warn other students of the dangers faced while under the influence of alcohol. Through peer education, they make other students aware of health promotion and alcohol and other drug awareness programs.
“That is what we’re here for. We’re on campus to help promote healthy living and this is just another aspect to help branch out with the community on top of the university,” said Dworak.
Frances Cortez Funk, Director of Health Promotion and Alcohol and Other Drug Services, Kutztown University, said the grant money will be used to focus on educating students about perception and reality.
“We do a lot of peer-to-peer outreach on campus, but with the funding we’re going to be able to do it off campus in Kutztown Borough and look at quality of life and more of a peer-to-peer outreach,” said Funk.
Funk feels confident that the new programs will work because of evidence-based models so there is a way of structure of building this capacity.
Schwank talked to the girls and said, “Maybe you have to be the one that says, ‘Wait a minute; this isn’t what we do. That’s an important role for you to play. It’s one that will serve you well the rest of your life; trust me.”
Some of the money awarded will be used for and alcohol education programs for new students, materials, Bacchus program which will require the training of approximately 20 members to help students understand the dangers of alcohol and make healthier choices.
According to Schwank, legislation was recently passed at a State Assembly that will increase the fines that students will pay on their first offense and on the second offense, it will go significantly higher. She said we are talking about $500 for a fine as well as a record for that kind of behavior.
“This isn’t the same kind of drinking necessarily that we saw when we were in college; this is binge drinking. The issue of off-campus housing has become even more important. The issue of just personal safety for students in one that we really need to take note of; it’s a different world. I really want to commend all the individuals here.”
Schwank said citizens have a right to feel safe and secure in their community. She noted that the town-gown relationship between colleges and universities and the boroughs that they reside in are critically important great economic drivers with mutual benefits, but sometimes issues come up and this is one of them. Schwank is very proud that these issues are now being able to be addressed.