Donor gift supports critical mental health support for students

October 16, 2023
By: Deborah Alvarez O'Neil

Editors note: This story first appeared in the 2023 Donor Impact Statement, Supporting the Whole Student,published in September. The annual publication highlights the impact of philanthropic support at the university.

Each year, hundreds of Worcester State students come together for a daylong mental health fair that promotes awareness, suicide prevention, de-stigmatization, and an opportunity to explore a variety of supportive services in a positive and uplifting environment.

“The goal is to create an atmosphere of emotional well-being while decreasing stigma around help seeking,” said Julie Glovin, mental health outreach manager and assistant director of counseling services. “We hope that students will see that the campus cares about their emotional health and well-being.”

The event, Fresh Check Day, is the university’s largest mental health outreach event of the year, taking up three floors of the Student Center and featuring upward of 18 student- and staff-run booths with a variety of activities. The event is made possible through support from Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU). With DCU funds, the university is able to purchase all of the materials, prizes, and giveaways that make the event such a huge draw for students.

“This is the most important outreach event of the year for student mental health services,” said Laura Murphy, Worcester State’s associate dean of health and wellness and director of counseling. “If we didn’t have DCU funds, we wouldn’t be able to do it. The benefit is that we are able to educate a large number of students. We have faculty who send their entire classes to Fresh Check Day. We are so grateful to have the support we need to continue this event, especially at a time when mental health services are so needed on campus.”

Even before the pandemic, college students were facing growing mental health challenges. A 2023 Healthy Minds Study showed that 79% of Worcester State students felt that emotional or mental difficulties had hurt their academic performance. A 2022 national Gallup poll showed that emotional stress has impacted college students’ ability to stay in college: nearly a third of students have considered dropping out.

Worcester State’s Counseling Services has been able to expand its support for students through gifts like the DCU’s, as well as grants from the state, including $142,000 from the Department of Higher Education that funded the launch of the pilot program ResilientU@WooState in November 2022. The ResilientU program, which offers a 24/7 mental health support line, telehealth counseling, psychiatry, and a host of online wellness resources, will continue through fall 2023.

Now entering its ninth year, Fresh Check Day is scheduled for October 25, 2023, at Worcester State. Founded by the Jordan Porco Foundation, the national event has been added to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s new Best Practices Registry.

Support for initiatives like Fresh Check Day align with DCU’s philanthropic approach, says Foundation Manager Maureen Spaulding. Along with the event, DCU’s gift to the university supports a variety of academic enrichment and student well-being initiatives on campus, including the Worcester State Teaching Garden, Thea’s Pantry, and the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice.

“DCU has three core principles. People come first. Do the right thing, and make a difference,” she said. “We ask those questions: Who is that person, and where is the greatest need? That’s how we’d most like to see our funding being allocated to help individuals.  The goal is to make a true impact for the Worcester State student population.”

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