Matthew Manzo first noticed a problem with binge drinking on college campuses before he even enrolled at Temple—after the death of family friend Shane Montgomery.
“I went to a Roman Catholic high school for two years, and I was really close to Shane Montgomery’s uncle,” said Manzo, a freshman finance major. “He was my cross country coach. Shane ran cross country too, but graduated right before I got there. It was such a shock after that happened. Everyone was devastated.”
In November 2014, Montgomery, a West Chester University senior, went missing after a night out at a bar in Manayunk. After a five-week search, his body was recovered from the Schuylkill.
When Manzo started at Temple last year, he wanted to prevent an alcohol-related situation like Montgomery’s from happening again. He decided to start what he calls a “Drink Smart” campaign by handing out free bottles of water to students at times throughout the year when high rates of binge drinking typically occur on college campuses. The campaign is aimed at helping students to drink responsibly and to avoid alcohol poisoning and other risks of binge drinking.
The Newman Center, Temple’s Catholic community on campus, is sponsoring the campaign. Because he is a member and the future facilities coordinator, Manzo said he thought his “Drink Smart” initiative could benefit both the Newman Center and Temple students.
“I’m very supportive of it,” said Father Shaun Mahoney, director of the Newman Center. “I’m delighted with it. It is recognizing kind of a need on campus and just helping to elevate sensitivities to being prudent in drinking patterns, so I think it’s something very positive.”
“I feel very positive about the Newman Center being connected with it,” he added.
Manzo and his fellow volunteers set up a water station at 17th and Berks streets on St. Patrick’s Day, and gave away their entire supply of bottled water that night. Their initiative is gaining momentum, Manzo said—they have even received donations upwards of $500.
The team hasn’t set up a specific schedule for outreach yet, but the members hope to hand out water bottles every other weekend in different locations where binge drinking typically occurs at higher rates. They hope to gain more support from the Temple community as well, Manzo said.
While promoting safe drinking habits is the primary goal of the initiative, it also aims to make students more aware of everything the Newman Center has to offer.
“We want to put a face to the Catholic church a little bit too, and to let them know we are people, we care about you, we love you and we are trying to look out for you in some way,” said Gian Milles, a senior psychology major and Manzo’s main partner on the project, as well as the Newman Center’s current facilities coordinator.
“We want to ensure safety, and spread the love of our faith,” Milles added.
Since it’s only his freshman year, Manzo said he has big ideas for the future of the “Drink Smart” initiative, like finding a way to include the Montgomery family in the future of the campaign.
“I’ve been trying to think of the best way to approach my former coach, but they’re still suffering,” Manzo said.
“I’m just happy this idea came to me so early,” he added. “I want it to grow every year.”
Brooke Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.