This year from November 9-13, the College Diabetes Network (CDN) will host its second annual College Diabetes Week. I’ve blogged many times about my role with this organization, which has evolved quite a bit over the past few years.
Four years ago I began my freshman year of college at UMass Amherst. I spent the first semester making new friends, attending classes, and experiencing unprecedented levels of adjustments to college life. In that period of time, I was aware that there was a chapter of the CDN on my campus, but was unable to attend meetings due to my busy schedule.
That changed in my spring semester. I went to my first meeting and learned that CDN had been created right there, at UMass Amherst, just a few years prior to my attending the university. I discovered the goals of the organization as a whole and soon formed a vision for myself and my participation in this particular chapter. I was excited to be involved and to meet, for the first time, other T1Ds who were my age.
However, there was one major problem: While there were several individuals on campus who expressed a clear interest in our chapter, we still lacked recognition from the Student Government Association. It was an arduous process to submit the required paperwork, and previous attempts to accomplish this had been unsuccessful. In my sophomore year, I decided to take charge and earn our group the registered student organization status that it deserved.
It wasn’t easy, but after many email exchanges, document compilations, and meetings, the UMass Amherst chapter of the College Diabetes Network was officially established. I was elated! Now, we were entitled to conference rooms, advertising rights, and other various privileges that were previously out of reach. I was ready to rally up the other CDN members and start making an impact on our campus, using all the newfound resources at our disposal.
During my final year and a half at UMass, I like led our chapter. Registering our group was the first of numerous obstacles we had to overcome, and at times it was mentally and physically draining to be president of our chapter. Attendance to meetings waxed and waned, with attempts to garner feedback from members about what they wanted out of the group culminating in both success and failure. I don’t think I’ve ever openly admitted this before, but sometimes I felt like I was the only person on the UMass campus who genuinely cared about the UMass CDN chapter. I desperately wanted it to thrive once I graduated and worried that I hadn’t done enough to ensure it would.
But the pros of leading the UMass CDN chapter far outweighed the cons. My tenure as president resulted in two (paid) internships, as well as chances to attend conferences and meet other T1D college students across the country. I made friendships that I value. I learned more about nutrition, exercise, and technology as they pertain to diabetes, thanks to the guest speakers who came to our meetings. My self-confidence rose as I saw the positive outcome of the fundraising and advocacy efforts that I’d led.
Now I feel assured that the UMass chapter of CDN is in good hands. I still receive emails from the current president, and I’m proud to see her making every effort to increase the chapter’s presence on campus. She’s had some wonderful ideas for projects this semester and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.
Speaking now as an alumnus of both college and the CDN, it’s exciting for me to see the approach of another College Diabetes Week. My role this year will be different; after all, I’m now a part of the “real world” and no longer a full-time college student. But I am still a person with diabetes who is passionate about advocacy and the mission of CDN. That being said, I plan to use social media throughout College Diabetes Week to help CDN achieve the specific goals set for each day: Monday—Education, Tuesday—Fundraising, Wednesday—Awareness, Thursday—Advocating, and Friday—Celebrating.
I can’t wait to follow the week’s official hashtag, #collegediabetesweek, on social media—it will surely be inspiring to see what different CDN chapters across the country are doing to celebrate!
Molly Johannes is a regular contributor to ASweetLife. She writes the blog Diabetes Goes to College.