Oct 222003
Authors: Brittany Burke

Some students look forward to their 21st birthday for years and

the Hartshorn Health Service wants them to celebrate that day


Four years ago, Hartshorn started sending birthday cards for

students turning 21.

“We started to hear a little more about the ritual of drinking

your age in shots,” said Pam McCracken, the director for the Center

of Drug and Alcohol Education.

McCracken wanted to start a program that would make students

think about the amount of alcohol they consumed.

“(Sending out birthday cards) wasn’t meant to stop drinking,”

McCracken said. “It was meant to tell students to be aware of the


Jody Donovan, assistant to the vice president of Student

Affairs, also helped with the project.

“It was important because turning 21 is a right of passage,”

Donovan said. “We knew it needed to be safe.”

Hartshorn sends cards to every student turning 21 during the

academic year. These cards explain the importance of being informed

and do not tell a student not to drink but rather to do so

responsibly. Approximately 200 to 300 cards are sent out each


“The only thing you can do when you turn 21 is drink legally,”

McCracken said. “It’s built up so much in our culture.”

The cards are only a little more than the postage costs to send

them, McCracken said. Currently they hold a small card with

symptoms of alcohol poisoning. The health center hopes to soon

include coupons and RamRide cards. RamRide provides a sober driver

for those too drunk to drive.

Kristen Schowe, a technical journalism major, will turn 21 at

the end of this month. She recently received the card and

appreciated the gesture.

“When I first read the card it kind of made me laugh,” Schowe

said. “But when I thought about it I was surprised the health

center goes out of their way to send cards like this.”

Schowe still plans on celebrating her birthday with alcohol.

“I am still going to the bars, but now I think I’ll be a little

more careful with how much I end up drinking,” Schowe said.

According to a study by Be Responsible About Drinking, a

non-profit organization, students receiving a birthday card before

their 21st birthday drank less and were less likely to report parts

of the celebration they could not recall.

The family and friends of Bradley McCue, a Michigan State

University junior who died of alcohol poisoning after celebrating

his 21st birthday, founded BRAD.

Hartshorn uses its own card design, created by a student,

instead of the one provided by BRAD.

“I hope (the birthday cards) made a difference,” Donovan said.

“We just want to let the students know we are thinking about





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