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