By Ludmila Mitula
Senior Staff Photographer
By the first day of the spring semester, some Brookhaven College students may already be counting down the days until Spring Break. The week off from school is seen as a time to relax, hang with friends and let loose.
For many college students, it has since become synonymous with wild parties and excessive drinking. However, arguably one of the most important things students can do over Spring Break is stay safe.
Former Brookhaven student Derek Madrigal learned that lesson through experience.
“Spring Break of 2012 changed my life tremendously,” Madrigal said. “I’m definitely not the same person. It made me really slow down and cherish all the great things you’re capable of in life.”
Madrigal said he still likes the ocean, waves and sand, but his 2012 Spring Break experience in South Padre Island, Texas, does not elicit such fond memories.
He was brutally beaten on Coca-Cola Beach and almost died. Madrigal was attacked by 10 men while attempting to protect a person in distress. He spent almost two weeks in the hospital fighting for his life.
Spring Break is often portrayed as a week of non-stop fun: socializing, going to different events, drinking and partying. “During this time, we witness an increased number of people coming to our office with injuries, especially head, broken bones and wounds or skin cuts,” Karolina Lipiec, a medical assistant from a local physician office, said. “Very common are also drug- and alcohol-related injuries. Usually people would not provide us with details on when and why certain things happened, but we can often guess that it was connected with drinking or violence.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s website, every school year, 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from unintentional, alcohol-related injuries.
The problem with drinking is that many people accept it, Jerry Bartz, geospatial lab coordinator at Brookhaven, said. “As a student, I was never interested in partying or drinking,” he said. “Young people have to be more careful with alcohol. This is a plague.”
According to cignabehav ioral.com, daily binge drinking is a college life staple. Unfortunately, it is even more common during Spring Break. According to a 2004 study by the University of Wisconsin, 75 percent of college males and 43 percent of college females reported being intoxicated on a daily basis during Spring Break. “Other concerns included drunk driving, property destruction and personal safety,” according to Cigna’s website.
These dangers have caused some Spring Break hot spots to erect temporary jails right on the beach, according to nytimes.com. “Remember to stay together,” Madrigal said. “Leave yourself a way out.”
Brookhaven nurse Mildred Kelley gave similar advice. “Encourage responsibility, know who you are hanging out with, and plan your activities,” she said. “Be responsible with drinking alcohol. When people mix drugs and alcohol, there can be serious consequences.”
Carolina Wilkins, a Brookhaven student, said she plans to go to Florida this spring. “It’s OK to relax sometimes and not think about studying during the break,” she said. “I try to remember that I shouldn’t always take life so seriously.” The modern concept of the Spring Break tradition gained mainstream popularity in the 1960s after the release of the film “Where the Boys Are,” according to nytimes.com.