Their Safety is Really All that Matters
I’m not a helicopter parent. Really, I’m not. (Ok, some may disagree.) Regardless, once we have moved our student in and they are ready to embark on a new independent life, we still want to know they are safe at all times. Once the tears have stopped (ours, of course), it becomes easier each time you realize their growing autonomy (this is what we are supposed to want for our children) and happiness. Knowing they are safe is a forever thing. Therefore, it may be helpful to know that UCF has a few very supportive resources available.
The UCF Police Department provides Student Escort Patrol Service, which is a free service. Student employees of the police department use special carts or walk with students to their destination. The service runs seven days a week when classes are in session. It does not, however, run on holidays, between semesters or on football game days, but do have later hours during finals. Be sure your student has their number: 407-823-2424 (it is also on the back of their student ID) or after hours, 407-823-5555 in his/her phone.
The UCF Police also teach a Women’s Self Defense class that I highly recommend. (Think lifetime skills, not just the next four years.) They provide information, tactics, and options useful for various types of crimes perpetrated against women. Our girls can register by calling 407-823-3224, 30 days before the class.
Throughout campus, there are also Emergency Blue Light Phones that consist of over 150 strategically placed phones equipped with emergency speakerphones that will immediately locate a student and respond.
In addition, there is the Victim Advocate Services which provides confidential advocacy to victims 24 hours a day. They offer emotional support, referrals, education programming and more. Hopefully, your kids won’t ever need this, but it is good to know it is there. Generally, all students should sign up for UCF Alerts through their student portal. This alerts them to emergency issues from extreme weather to bomb threats. (Don’t shoot the messenger; it really mentioned this on their website.)
While I miss my daughter immensely, I am also confident that I have given her tools to succeed. They are going to experiment; perhaps staying out late or eating unhealthy foods, drinking and so forth. UCF offers many safety nets if you have concerns that your student is having difficulty adjusting to life on his or her own. First, there is the LINK (Learning and Interacting with New Knights) Program designed to get students involved academically or through community activities. There is also CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) which provides students mental health services and various workshops, including ones in stress management. Safe Zone is there for support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (GLBTQ) persons at the university. The Bounce Back Campaign from UCF Cares offers students tips and resources for managing mild to moderate depression. Whether they are stressed out, lonely, overwhelmed, nervous, or homesick there is someone there to help. There are services for just about everything one may think of and some we can’t anticipate. Should your son/daughter sound particularly stressed at some point you may want to recommend they head over to the Relaxation Station where they use a HeartMath Inner Balance™ App and sensor, to teach students how to reduce their anxiety. WHPS and CAPS Stress Management offer various opportunities to recognize and help reduce stress through scheduled events, including meditation. These events are generally during April (finals). UCF offers many activities from biofeedback to dog walking (studies have shown that dogs help students deal with stress and anxiety); literally, something for everyone, to help our kids cope when needed.
Bottom line, UCF is an enormous institution and programs like the ones above offer a safety net should students be in need. Bookmark them, and be sure your student is aware of each; then sit back and wait for the eye roll, but know you did your duty.
I also recommend getting your student’s roommates and/or a close friend’s contact information. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your daughter/son; and although it may be as simple as a) he forgot to charge his phone, b) she fell asleep at the sorority house or c) lost her phone under a pile of laundry and is so busy studying she didn’t realize it was gone. (Do not laugh; I have lived through all three.) This being said, remind your son/daughter of the obvious (to us) to not walk anywhere alone (particularly at night) or put themselves in dangerous situations. As any campus police will tell you, crime is always based on opportunity so if you remove the opportunity, in most instances, you can exist safely on campus.
I would also make certain you have your student’s Find My Phone log in information. They may resist, but perhaps you can make a promise not to abuse its benefits in order to make them less resistant. You can also explain how should they go missing (see a, b and c above), a cell phone allows the police or anyone else to track your student’s recent activity. Of course, if the phone is shut down it has no service, but it will give the most recent usage. If that doesn’t convince them, threaten to not pay the phone bill (which of course would defeat the purpose, but it works.) I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories about children who couldn’t be reached for hours at a time, putting the parents into a major tailspin, only to find their son/daughter simply forgot to tell his/her roommate he/she was sleeping somewhere else. Avoid this situation at all costs and remind your kids to always contact someone (roommate, suitemate, BFF) of their whereabouts, especially if they are not going to be sleeping in the room. Sure, sometimes it is not planned, but social media is so prevalent that there are no reasons to not let someone else know their whereabouts.
An Uncomfortable Discussion …
All universities are open campuses many with beautiful, sprawling foliage, brick buildings, open spaces. UCF is an absolutely amazing campus like many college campuses. Being a college town, it does attract some undesirable persons. Your student should always be aware of their surroundings. We live in scary times as witnessed by the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida (where all my children graduated from and where I live). Sadly, students today prepare for what is called a Code Red or active shooter. Every college has a plan. To read UCF’s plan, click here.