By Damon Markiewicz

At Springfield College, students are the number one priority. Making sure they have the resources to stay physically and mentally healthy are as important as their studies. That’s why the College was proud to graduate its second cohort of students from Pride Cares with a special ceremony on Monday, Oct. 24, in the Cleveland E. and Phyllis B. Dodge Room.

These 25 program graduates join last year’s pilot cohort of 27 students, and each of them will now carry a green tag (featuring the words “Pride Cares”) on their backpack identifying them as a resource to other students. All these student volunteers participated in six hours of training to equip them with information to better understand mental health (depression, anxiety, substance use, etc.), but more importantly, to recognize warning signs and learn how to connect with their peers in need of assistance.

“The primary focus is to equip students to be more open to conversations with someone they may be concerned about with the knowledge that students are much more likely to approach their peers before seeking out professional help,” said Lauren Gray, LICSW, counselor in the Springfield College Counseling Center. “The Pride Cares student leaders will not offer any kind of mental health counseling or make a diagnosis. Instead, they will engage in a conversation and possibly serve as a bridge to other support options.”

Gray, who is also the Minds in Motion club advisor, a student-led group focused on providing students with mental health awareness and support, began the Pride Cares initiative along with Robert Accorsi, G’80, retired sport management/recreation faculty member and former faculty athletics representative. The pair brought the idea to the Athletics Department to begin a program that piloted in the spring of 2022.

Through Pride Cares, students go through a training process of three sessions based on the “ACT” model. The training process curriculum was developed by Gray, Accorsi, and several students in the doctorate program of psychology.

The first session, “A” (Assess/Acknowledge), focuses on learning how to validate a students’ feelings and concerns as well as beginning a dialogue that will approach them in the most effective way. The second session, “C” (Care), teaches students in the class about understanding anxiety and continues to develop the correct language to use when initiating conversation. The final session of the course is “T” (Tell/Treatment). In this session, students learn warning signs and escalating behaviors, and are given resources that they can share with their peers who are in need.

Pride Cares is modeled after a program at the University of Wisconsin called The Green Bandana Project (green is the color designated for mental health).

“We felt like we wanted to get behind it and develop our own curriculum that is unique to Springfield College,” added Gray. “We wanted to think about where our needs are and make our own program.”

For more information about Pride Cares, please contact

Pride Cares Mission Statement

Pride Cares is a campus initiative—created with intention—that draws from the Humanics philosophy and uses a peer-to-peer model to engage and support students who may be experiencing a mental health challenge. Our mission is to equip volunteer students with skills surrounding non-judgemental language and empathetic listening while acting in a caring manner to assist their peers in need.