By: Jabria Roscoe

University of Miami students Julie Erhardt and Julia Hecht are the winners of the national 2020 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest. The competition allows universities from across the nation to submit videos that promote the importance of stopping drug and alcohol abuse among college students.

Hecht says that winning the competition was a great way to wrap up the semester.

“It was really cool. We were home, I was in New York and Julie was in New Jersey. Julie facetimed me and it was a really nice way to wrap up that semester of hard work,” she said.

Filmed on the UM campus, the PSA features colorful animations and “nicotine monsters” that symbolize the process of drug addiction.

”It evolved into a storyboard of these monsters on campus with students and they seem normal, like when you walk around and see people juuling, they seem like normal aspects of life, but they eventually grow into these scary monsters,” Erhardt said.

Throughout the project, Erhardt worked as the creative mind for the video, while Hecht executed all of the filming, editing, and storytelling.

Erhardt, a peer educator at The Sandler Center at UM, was approached by the assistant dean and director of the Center, Whitney Platzer O’Regan, to take part in the project. According to its website, The Sandler Center is a comprehensive prevention, intervention, education, and referral program focusing on alcohol and other drug use, misuse, and dependency.

“[S]he knows that I am pretty creative, and I am friends with Julia, so she asked if it was something we would be interested in and she thought it would be a cool opportunity for The Sandler Center and for us to do something fun and come up with some creative content,” she explains.

Erhardt said taking on the project was an easy decision.

“Working for The Sandler Center has always been something that’s important to me,” said Erhardt. “We’re not here to get you in trouble, we’re here to really help students and help them be healthy and that health extends far past graduation and addressing things now can help prevent things in the future, even once you’re done at UM.”

Hecht says she was inspired to bring her expertise to the project because of The Sandler Center’s mission.

“I love what they stand for,” said Hecht. “I went to all the events freshman year and you actually take something away from them, so when she approached me with the idea, I was happy to help.”

In January, at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) virtual conference, Hecht and Erhardt along with students from the North Dakota State College of Science were announced the winners of the Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest. At the conference, Hecht and Erhardt presented on how other students can create a PSA similar to their winning video with little to no equipment.

Check out their PSA here: