The Campus Tour: A Diabetes Perspective

David Paul Weinzierl, University of Georgia '16

When I first heard the idea to offer a college campus tour to soon-to-be college students with diabetes and their parents, my mind began to race. My first question, however, was, “Why has it taken so long for someone to come up with such a great idea?” Well for Mindy Bartleson, the President of Dawgs for Diabetes, the College Diabetes Network Chapter at the University of Georgia, it took half a year to take her dream and make it into reality.

The introduction and initial planning for "The Campus Tour: A Diabetes Perspective" began in the middle stages of Summer 2014, and by the end of August 2014, had evolved and grown enormously. The mission of this tour, according to Mindy, was to give a campus tour of the University of Georgia “to those families who are impacted by Type 1 Diabetes....even if they do not [plan] to attend The University of Georgia.”

What this provided was insight into the college experience for both parent and child. This tour was not meant to show off the school, or point out any of its great academic or athletic achievements, but meant to give peace of mind to parents by easing their concerns for their soon-to-be college student who might be overwhelmed with, well, just about everything. By attending the campus tour, not only were previously held questions and concerns going to be answered, but attendees were provided the comfort of knowing there is a family awaiting you at college. We wanted to let attendees know that you are not alone in the fact that you have diabetes and are new to college. There will most likely be clubs and organizations similar to Dawgs for Diabetes no matter what college you decide to attend, and on top of that, the College Diabetes Network is always going to be there for you.

It seemed anyone and every one of the students who was asked to help out with the Campus Tour was eager to jump on board before we were even done explaining. The buzz about this tour caught the attention of people with diabetes, and their supporters, from all across Georgia. Among the 30 total volunteers, we had an author of a well-known diabetes book, a medical student from Georgia Regents University in Augusta, a public health graduate student from Emory University, and many, many more. The word about The Campus Tour: A Diabetes Perspective spread around quite well and made its way into the schedules of 21 families.

October 26th arrived, and along with it so did the day of the Campus Tour! We arrived in the early afternoon and began basic setup, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the families. Over the next hour, the families began to show up and before you knew it, we were ready to begin. We watched a video about The College Diabetes Network and seemingly brought everyone together immediately. Following the video were the introductions of Mindy Bartleson, and many of those heavily involved with the planning and overall execution of the event. Once settled in, the attendees were escorted to the top portion of North Campus at UGA, known as the Arch. From there, the parents and students were given a full length tour by a guide, while many of the volunteers walked alongside, answering any and all diabetes and college related questions.

After the tour, the question and answer portion of the event began. This part of the tour was strategically planned out. There were a series of panels, lead by either current students with diabetes, students with diabetes who had graduated college, or parents of a child with Type 1 who was in or had graduated from college. The attendees were then divided into smaller groups so that they could move from one panel to another. These panels allowed the parents and children to have many of their questions and concerns taken care of and answered by those who had dealt with many of the same problems. There was, however, one panel where the students were separated from their parents. In this panel, any questions could have been asked. It was an opportunity for the rising college student to ask a question that they may have been too embarrassed to ask in front of their parents and vice versa. While an onlooker might see this as strange, understand that there are many realities of life that people with diabetes may never have faced prior to attending college, and it is better to approach those situations prepared and educated rather than blind and afraid. In the end, everyone was rounded up and brought back into our initial introduction room. Here the final words were said, thank you’s, emails, and phone numbers were exchanged, and off went the 21 families who attended the first ever Diabetes Campus Tour.

Personally, I feel that if I could go back and change one thing about my whole college process, it would have been to attend an event like Mindy put together that final week of October. For both parent and child, almost every question was answered. Those parents who came into the day worried about something seemed to leave confident and pleased with how college students with diabetes are doing. The amount of resources and people that you have available to you in college is unreal. You are blessed with a family. A family who understands exactly what you are feeling and can empathize with you when you are facing difficult times. For many of the rising college students, that was their concern. They were simply worried that diabetes would get in the way of them making friends and having the “college experience”. We were able to calm those nerves and allow them to approach college with an open mind, ready to meet new people and have fun, not be plagued with the fear of their own diabetes.

Overall, the tour could not have gone any better. From the beginning to the end, those who attended seemed to learn so much and were extremely thankful for the opportunity to attend such a great event. The responses to the surveys and kind words sent to Mindy following the conclusion of the tour only emphasized how much of an impact the College Diabetes Network and Dawgs for Diabetes had on a large group of people in just one day. Just imagine what the impact of both organizations is over four years of college!

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The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide innovative peer based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.

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