Darren Yip – Special to the Southern News –
The sound of bouncing chips in a plinko board accompanied the smell of tacos near the food court on Wednesday afternoon, where many students were queuing up for a free taco. As they left the table with plates of tacos, each student was handed a ‘spring break kit’ as part of a spring break awareness program.
Stephanie Carli, a graduate intern with the Drug and Alcohol Research Center at Schwartz Hall, busied herself with handing out and explaining the contents of the kit.
“We know that next week is going to be spring break, so there’s most likely going to be a lot of alcohol use and/or drug use,” said Carli. “So we are giving out kits that have information on cocaine, ecstasy, molly, date rape drugs just to give students an overview of exactly what it is. Inside the kits, we also have just how to be safe and responsible on spring break.”
Carli said that the tacos were part of the strategy of attracting students to their table, and that they “have to give out some type of incentive for students to come, if not [students are] not going to stop by your table just to get information.”
“Our theme today is Tips and Tacos for a safe and fun spring break,” said Carli. “A lot of times at programs we will give out like free T-shirts, free food always tends to get students to come and everything that we give out has an educational message on it. So we’re not just giving free stuff for the sake of giving free stuff out.”
It soon became apparent that Carli’s strategy was an effective one; student after student left the table with plates loaded with tacos in one hand and a kit in the other.
“I wanted free tacos,” said Ewing simply. “I know people they don’t wanna pay for the food, and food is expensive here, and people like tacos, and they thought that would be a good way to draw people in to put out the information on spring break and what to do and what not to do.”
However, Carli said that before students are allowed to proceed to the taco table, students are required to “play a plinko game first,” involving a plinko board that had categories like Date Rape Drugs, Cocaine, Rave Drugs, and Risks with Drinking.
“That way we have students picking up some type of educational information that has to do with our focus,” said Carli.
Freddie Heredia was the student worker responsible for the plinko board, and student after student had been quizzed by him before being allowed to proceed to the tacos.
“The plinko board is just a game that we decided would be a fun way to interact with students,” said Heredia, who is a senior journalism major. “At least let them think about it, let them leave with something.”
Heredia said that the plinko board also let students “learn different things they didn’t know,” and said that he was “surprised how many people didn’t know what rohypnol is, or roofies.”
Regarding the payoff of the program, Heredia said, “With free tacos, we definitely got a good outcome. We got more food than expected, so we’re hoping more students to come too.”
Carli echoed the same sentiment and said that “this [program] was very, very satisfying,” even though this isn’t the first time a program was held before spring break.
“Every week before the spring break, we [do] a spring break program,” said Carli. “We want to [inform] students so that they are making safe and informed decisions.”