TCNJ Magazine - Winter 2020

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14 The College of New Jersey Magazine P R A I R I E ANDREW CISLAK Night shift Successful recreation program on campus takes the college party scene in a different direction. IT'S LATE THE THURSDAY NIGHT before Homecoming 2019 and Alé Cruz '21 finds herself in a precarious situation as a bunch of "frat boys" start pitching buckets of water at her and some of her friends. But as Cruz shields her crew from danger, it's the guys' canoe that capsizes in Packer pool, advancing Cruz's team to the next round of a Canoe Battleship tournament. "It was a night to remember for sure," she says. (Her team, the Floaters, won the tournament.) The popular campus event, a sink- your-opponent challenge modeled after the board game Battleship, is part of the safe, late-night fun the Department of Recreation and Wellness offers through its RECreate Your Night program, now in its fifth year. "It's nice that the college is giving us alternative things to do," says Cruz, who started attending RECreate activities her freshman year because she didn't enjoy the party scene, "rather than just telling its students that going out is bad." RECreate Your Night, the brainchild of recreation director Rob Simels, aims to reduce drug and alcohol abuse by offering healthy, social programming to students. Funded through a New Jersey state grant, TCNJ's program was one of the first among the nation's nights such as a fall haunted house and winter wonderland party, to paint and cookie parties, to sports such as bubble soccer and ninja warrior obstacles. Alumnus Eric Van Eck '18, a student in recovery, says the program was a lifesaver. "It's less about what you are doing and more about just being in a positive atmosphere," he says. "Going to RECreate gave me a community and a home." ■ —Kara Pothier campuses to provide dedicated activities four nights a week. "Having spaces where people feel comfortable is so important to student health," Simels says. Most events take place in the Student Recreation Center and now attract anywhere from 50 to 500 students. Last year, there were about 8,000 participants across all events. Activities range from theme Team Floaters (right) sink their opponents in a friendly game of Battleship.

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