Rams in Recovery opens space for students to feel welcome

Thomas Bannard leads Rams in Recovery, which recently opened its doors at its new location on 819 S. Cathedral Place. Photo by Enza Marcy

Taylor Toben, Contributing Writer

Rams in Recovery, a program established within VCU Student Affairs, has recently opened its doors in a home-like clubhouse on Cathedral St. Established in 2013, the program provides a safe space for students recovering from substance use. 

Students can come in to study, hang out and exist within the supportive community built through the program with an open-door policy any day of the week.

“This is a space for people to feel welcome and encouraged,” said Shauntelle Hammonds, an AmeriCorps worker at Rams in Recovery and student at VCU. “It is important to just let people know that we are here and we are here to support them in any way possible.”

Rams in Recovery provides tiers of involvement and resources, including the new clubhouse and individual support from coordinators and other members of the program.

“For folks in recovery, it becomes a big part of your identity, so we try to honor that identity and create spaces where that is supported and valued,” program coordinator Thomas Bannard said.

The program starts with recovery support meetings that are open to the Richmond community. They’re designed to help people begin the recovery process.

“I get so much out of this community. We are trying to break down barriers about what substance use looks like, what recovery looks like, and what people in recovery look like.” — Tristen Taggart

The next tier is a program membership — supporting about 60 active members at a time — in which students agree to pursue an abstinence-based recovery. The membership includes benefits such as priority registration for classes and excursion activities, including the annual recovery spring break trip in Florida.

The program is staffed with coordinators, student workers and AmeriCorps workers, most of whom have recovered or are recovering themselves. 

AmeriCorps is a voluntary program supported by the United States government that allows adults to engage in public service work. 

The workers are integrated into the program as support resources, keeping the clubhouse open and providing availability for coaching.

“One of the most important things is that this community really believes in people’s capacity to change,” said Rams in Recovery member Tristen Taggart. “I am a very different person now than when I first came in, and it is because people believed that I could become the person that I am becoming now.” 

There are also seminars on how to overcome common challenges, a scholarship program and permanent recovery h

When members of Rams in Recovery graduate from the university, they receive a “recovery chip.” Photo by Enza Marcy

ousing for those who are part of the scholarship program. 

“I get so much out of this community,” Taggart said. “We are trying to break down barriers about what substance use looks like, what recovery looks like, and what people in recovery look like. I think there’s so much stigma around it still and I think this community does a really good job challenging that.”

VCU is one of the few universities in Virginia that offers “sober dorms,” on-campus housing offered to support the recovery process by providing living spaces. 

The group also offers students training to administer naloxone, a medication that helps to reverse opioid overdoses. 

The training is designed to talk about the myths surrounding addiction, how to tell when a person is overdosing, myths surrounding overdoses and to teach the hands-on process of how to administer naloxone, Hammonds said. 

Rams in Recovery also offers training for recovery allies that teaches people who aren’t in recovery how to support those in the process, including how to destigmatize addiction and recovery and how to utilize the correct language in doing so. The program is led and created by people in recovery and has trained more than 700 faculty members and students. 

“Our ally training goes far in that it is helping to change the whole culture of VCU,” Taggart said. “Having a conversational, educational setting is very helpful to get people to ask the things they would normally be scared to ask.”

For more information about Rams in Recovery, visit its clubhouse at 819 S. Cathedral Place, call at 804-828-1663 or visit recovery.vcu.edu.

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