Editor’s note: The CDN Chapters at the University of Washington and Seattle University teamed up with the Northwest Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to ensure that every college student in the Seattle T1D community has access to a support network. Andy, co-founder of the CDN Chapter at the University of Washington, and Gwen Malone and Teri Yoder from the JDRF Northwest Chapter told us about their experiences and why working with the diabetes community is so beneficial. Stay tuned for Gwen and Teri's blog!
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My name is Andy Zeiger and I recently graduated from the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle where I co-founded and led UW’s College Diabetes Network (CDN) Chapter - we called ourselves T1Dawgs. I also served as the College Outreach Chair to the Northwest JDRF Chapter.
I was connected to the Northwest JDRF chapter within a few weeks of my diagnosis during my junior year, but quickly realized that there were no resources or social support systems on campus that I could rely on. In those early days after being diagnosed, JDRF represented the only community of people who I could rely on for the support and guidance that helped shape my positive transition into college life with type 1 diabetes (T1D). The mission of the Seattle partnership between CDN and JDRF is to make sure that every college student in the Seattle T1D community has access to a support network that can serve as their foundation for a life of success and well-being.
College represents a risky time for a person with T1D. If they were diagnosed prior to attending college, their college experience likely represents the first time in their life where they are independently responsible for their management. For those like me diagnosed while in college, this period will be full of change and uncertainty. Young adults in college with T1D have to navigate a completely new lifestyle on top of all the normal stressors of college (think chaotic sleeping/eating schedules, drinking alcohol, late night studying, and pressures while socializing) that complicate normal diabetes management. It is vital that young adults with T1D have access to a social support network that provides tools and a community to fortify their physical and psychological well-being while facing the new challenges of college. CDN has well over 100 Chapters on college campuses across the nation, which provide resources, support and understanding for college students with T1D. Local support from JDRF chapters can go an incredibly long way in amplifying CDN’s message and network of support.
How did we make a local partnership between CDN and JDRF work? Here are some things that worked for our collaboration:
Integrate the CDN Chapter into the JDRF infrastructure to keep both groups on the same page. After founding the UW CDN Chapter, I was asked to sit on the Northwest JDRF Chapter outreach committee. This experience exposed me to many members of the community who I wouldn’t have met otherwise and who could help my CDN Chapter grow and thrive. I also had the opportunity to present our Chapter’s work to the JDRF Board of Directors to shed light on the difficulties of college life with T1D and how JDRF and CDN could continue to build upon their partnership. I believe this experience was vital in turning the JDRF chapter into a stakeholder in our CDN Chapter.
Designate a “point person” within the CDN Chapter who can serve as CDN’s connection to the local JDRF infrastructure. In my case, I was incredibly fortunate to have the mentorship of Gwen Malone, who also served as the Chair of the Outreach Committee and sat on the Northwest JDRF Chapter Board. As a T1D community member for many years with insight into JDRF and its resources, Gwen supported our CDN Chapter’s efforts with advice and moral support, as well as help in executing our plans and vision.
Collaborate on events in the community to engage potential new CDN members and integrate them into the JDRF community. We held multiple panel events that attracted new individuals from schools all over the Seattle area to provide educational experts in disability services, nutrition, research, mental health and other important fields. As part of a campus leadership symposium, I presented our work to the community and met multiple students with T1D who were eager to join our CDN Chapter. More exposure for our CDN Chapter in the community increases the likelihood that a person with T1D will learn about the group. JDRF is a highly trusted name in the T1D community. Partnership between JDRF and CDN can lead to long term recruitment success for CDN because families will know well in advance of sending their kids to college that a T1D support system will be there for them when they head to campus.
Reach out to your local JDRF chapter well in advance of events that your chapter can collaborate/volunteer with such as TypeOneNation or One Walk. As CDN is part of the TypeOneNation Summit Core Curriculum, CDN students are welcome to sit on the panel for “Off to College” panel events. Our Chapter strived to have a presence at the Seattle Beat the Bridge Walk and TypeOneNation Summit as well as the annual Dream Gala and Gingerbread Village fundraisers. I believe these experiences helped integrate us into the JDRF community and they were quite fun!
Lastly, connect with a JDRF “point person” who can share resources and opportunities with your CDN Chapter as they arise.
While no two people will experience T1D exactly the same way, everyone in our community deserves to be well-prepared and motivated to be able to pursue whatever they want in their lives. Strong partnerships between CDN and JDRF on the local level can help to achieve this goal.
For more information on CDN’s Off to College resources, check out Off to College.