ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) –The SAFE Project is a nonprofit dedicated to combating addiction in the United States. Its founders’ son died of an overdose his freshman year of college and the nonprofit’s Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy Program is preventing more deaths by supporting students as they navigate through their recoveries.

“We came up with [the program] to help not only expand collegiate recovery across the country from like a grassroots level but to also build leaders who are in recovery and recovery allies,” said Hannah Fitzpatrick, associate director of SAFE Campuses. Each program is led by a SAFE Project fellow, who’s tasked with a recovery impact project with the help of a mentor. The fellows attend two conferences, which have been tabled because of the pandemic.

Those events aren’t the only resources that hit the back burner this year — the projects each fellow had been working on had to be put on pause. Catherine Pope, a SAFE Project fellow at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was getting ready to host a seminar when her students had to leave campus.

“It’s good that I have everything in place for next semester,” said Pope. “It’s just the nature of things. You have to be really flexible as a collegiate recovery leader.”

One thing that isn’t so flexible is SAFE Project members’ road to recovery.

“We knew that a lot of students are being displaced,” said Senior Director of SAFE Campuses Ariel Britt. “Their communities on campus were talking with their administrators and they were really looking at, ‘How can we continue to create that structure and that support as students are going back to their homes, if they’re lucky?'”

Britt and her SAFE colleagues have launched virtual collegiate recovery sessions, held over Zoom, three times a week. They’re also offering “office hours” over Zoom for fellows who have had to redirect their projects.

“We’ve had the first meeting — two staff members came in — and we were troubleshooting,” said Technical Assistance Manager for SAFE Campuses Dylan Dunn. “And then last week we just had someone come in and want to vent. Their university was shutting their program down, like, now. Like, they’re done. While there’s a differentiation between the staff space and the student space they’re kind of serving the same purpose with a different group in mind.”

“I’ve witnessed so much resiliency and I’ve also witnessed a lot of grief and a lot of loss,” said Britt. “It’s our responsibility as people in recovery to hold them. Hold space for them. We are adaptable. We will get through this. And no matter what happens there will always be someone thinking, ‘What can I do to help?'”

To join a virtual collegiate recovery session, email