Office of Public Affairs

With its New Gorham Offices, the ROCC is a Rolling Stone No More

The Recovery Oriented Campus Center is building its future in Gorham on a ROCC-solid foundation.

A grand opening celebration for the ROCC’s new location at 149 State Street took place on Thursday, September 15. As a converted family residence, the white clapboard house has a homey feel. It’s the first building you see as you turn into campus at the Husky Drive entrance.

“We want to provide a place where students can come together, celebrate their recovery, meet each other, help each other,” said Dr. Liza Little, Director of Counseling Services.

The ROCC takes a wide-ranging approach to recovery by guiding students through difficulties with substance abuse, mental health, or feeling out of place. Support is peer focused with students helping students.

The program operated for years out of an office in the Sullivan Recreation and Fitness Complex on the Portland Campus. Activities in Gorham relied on borrowed spaces. When those activities ended, the Portland office could feel far away to students living in the Gorham residence halls.

“Students aren’t going to leave at four or five o’clock at night, driving on the bus in winter, to get to where we are,” said the ROCC’s Program Coordinator, Chris Corson, about the need for a second home in Gorham.

The search began about three years ago and gained urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ROCC stretched its resources to help people cope with the loneliness of quarantine, fear of being infected, and the grief of losing a loved one to the coronavirus. About 400 students visited the ROCC’s Portland office last spring alone.

After providing so much help, the ROCC found itself on the receiving end, courtesy of Campus Human Resources Services. HR staff had offices in the house on State Street. Department leaders decided they had more space than they needed and offered to share half of the house with the ROCC. Corson and his team got straight to work remaking their rooms to fit their needs.

For the lounge, they created an inclusive environment with an overstuffed sofa and bean bag chair that are equally comfortable for watching television or chatting. Picture windows overlook a grassy and yard and let in plenty of natural light. And the walls are decorated with positive slogans like “laugh much” and “be kind.”

A conference table dominates another room set aside as a work space. Corson claimed a corner of his own barely big enough to fit his desk.

Some of the structured activities planned for the ROCC Spot (as the new facility is called) include arts and crafts, book discussions, and karaoke singalongs. More intimate gatherings allow visitors to bare their souls to each other in a safe environment of people who have gone through similar experiences.

Registration for one of those events began circulating a week before the ROCC Spot opened. Interest on campus was running so high that 78 people signed up. The Portland office also remains open and busy as ever with a full slate of activities and services, including a free community lunch at 1-2 p.m. every Thursday.

Abedom Gebreyesus plans to be a familiar face to visitors of the ROCC Spot. He’s a peer support provider and graduate assistant in the Leadership Studies program, although Gebreyesus isn’t big on labels. He’d rather be seen by the ROCC’s visitors as simply a friend whenever they need one.

“If you genuinely want to help people, it’s important. And if you really mean it, that’s all that matters, as long as you’re genuinely being kind to others,” Gebreyesus said. “You saying, ‘Oh, somebody looks nice,’ that could change their whole day because you never know what people are going through.”

Gebreyesus’ filled a more technical role at the grand opening celebration by operating the computer that projected a movie onto an outdoor screen. The lawn on the other side of the screen was dotted with picnic blankets that served as theatre seating.

Other visitors were more interested in sitting down to a multi-course meal cooked up on a barbecue grill. Disc jockeys from WMPG provided the dinner music. At one point, someone pulled out a football for a game of catch. But the biggest draw was the ROCC Spot itself.

Corson acted as personal tour director for President Jacqueline Edmondson and anyone else who wanted to look around the new digs that so obviously filled him with pride.

“We want students to come, to feel like they can be a part of something great,” Corson said.