Katie Barber is committed to helping others. She’s doing that right now for hundreds of people she doesn’t even know.
Katie is a health, society, and policy major at the University of Utah. “I was taking a course with the Honors College called, ‘Drugs and Us,’” she recalls. “It’s a year-long class and as part of the course you were supposed to identify a problem and then work to fix the problem in the second part of the year.”
When Utah Naloxone, a community partner, came and presented to her class and explained how they help the community, Katie and some of her classmates were impressed. They decided to partner with Utah Naloxone to develop a volunteer program that could assemble kits of this life-saving drug.
Even when her class project ended, Katie’s commitment to community was stronger than ever. “The Bennion Center was our answer to their problem,” Katie says. Although she has never experienced a drug overdose personally, or had a loved one suffer with addiction, Katie was passionate about creating a student-directed program that could address the critical opioid overdose epidemic. “It just seemed really pertinent because Utah has such a high rate of overdose deaths,” says Katie. “It’s not talked about a lot and that’s why I wanted to focus on it.”
Working with the Bennion Center, Katie recruited volunteers, organized trainings, and worked with the organization to build community awareness. Sometimes, no one showed up at her kit assembly events. Other times, she led volunteers to create dozens of vitally needed kits on only two days’ notice. There were problems with logistics and communication, but Katie kept going. “Saving one life is worth it,” she explains. “I have always placed emphasis on helping people in general, but it has been enhanced being a part of this program,” she says. “I’ve realized that something so simple can be much bigger. It’s not just about meeting one little goal, that goal cascades, every single time.”
Katie is one of hundreds of students who use the University of Utah’s Bennion Center as a springboard for civic engagement projects they are passionate about. Founded more than 30 years ago, the Bennion Center is the University of Utah’s hub for community engagement. Whether it’s a service activity, a class, or a research project, the Bennion Center helps students and faculty strengthen communities through learning, scholarship and advocacy. For this reason, the Bennion Center is a true Utah Community Builder.
“Inaction is unacceptable,” Katie says about opioid overdoses. “I am so grateful for these volunteers’ genuine commitment to learning and serving in an effort to intervene. I have hope for a healthier future.”