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Attacking the Mental Health Crisis on College Campuses

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Submitted by Hayden Kirkpatrick on 13/02/2020

A mental health is a growing crisis across American colleges. In a 2017 study, the American Institute of Stress indicated that over 30% of college students had felt an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety sometime in the past 2 weeks upon taking the survey. 64% of students who drop out of college, do so because of mental illness. According to American College Health Association, 30% of college students seek out mental health treatment. USC associate dean of the Office of Religious life has cited a “loneliness epidemic”(1) amongst college students, some of which, they have found, are ill-equipped to put in the time to develop real friendships with the other students around them.

The generation who have a carefully curated Instagram page are lacking tools to create real relationships in the unfamiliar setting they find themselves in college. Without the allure of a club that the students are interested in, students can find themselves spending more and more time in their dorm rooms. These numbers and observations are a bit alarming. What can help alleviate the stress, encourage relationships and diminish the growing mental health crisis in the American University culture? One way is to combat the feeling of isolation and give students a wider sense of purpose and meaning. Students need a platform and space to share passions and a goal beyond the daily grind of schoolwork. The automotive world is where many find a passion, being a subject that reaches a wide swath of civilization, touching everyone’s life daily.

As a high school student, who never seemed to fit into the typical high school roles, I found fixing up an old 1965 Mustang a great way to create a community. This project unintentionally led me to meet many great people, as I would seek help and advice. The chance to learn from those that I would normally not cross paths with, and solve the many problems that arise from working on a car that was built before the first US ground troops landed in Vietnam was enjoyable, and subsequent bonding and celebration over the fact that I had made the rust bucket drivable again helped balance the stress of high school. Aside from the mental health benefits, this also allowed me to pick up many useful skills that I would otherwise not know, such as changing a cylinder head or mounting a new radiator.

Creating purposeful projects with supportive people, all with a shared goal and eventually a shared accomplishment are all factors that can inoculate one from elements that can lead to a mental health crisis. Having an environment where students feel that they are part of a greater community and are able to design and build a car can lower stress levels. But there is a problem. Most of the cars that these clubs build are based off donor cars. While not necessarily a problem in and of itself these cars must be brought to the campus by students, who can then work on them. These donor vehicles are usually not in the best of shape and not suitable for driving, but they provide a sort of base for the students to build off of. Once the donor is at the school’s shop and transformed into a track worthy vehicle, it must be transported to car shows and, more importantly, the circle tracks that house the actual races.

Firstly, the problem of getting the donor cars to the school’s shops. While some schools will tow or trailer the vehicle to the school, this is usually not an easy proposition. And while some college students arrive on campus sporting diesel powered pickup trucks capable of towing a donor vehicle, close to none arrive with a trailer, much less one able to safely carry a vehicle the likes of a C5 corvette or a Nissan 350z. Some student clubs are forced to rent U-Haul trucks or borrow flatbeds from auto shops in order to get their future racecars into their respective school garages. In a worst case scenario,

the students are forced to leave campus to work on their vehicles as they simply cannot haul the cars to the school’s automotive shop.

Once they have done all the necessary body modifications, engine upgrades, suspension tuning, paint, and everything else that goes into making a mid-level sports car into a car worthy of circle track racing, the issue then becomes how to get said vehicle to said circle track. In many ways, this problem mirrors that of the donor car. While these stripped-down racers are not as heavy as the commuter cars they started life as, they can be sensitive to dust, rain, and most other things found on public highways, which means that a covered transport is often required. While a favor from a friend who has a flatbed or a rented trailer from U-Haul is one thing, a covered trailer big enough to hold a sprint car is completely different.

Not many individuals have access to covered trucks or trailers, which means that most students have to employ private companies in order to transport their cars. This can be expensive and difficult depending on the location of the college. That is where A1 Auto Transport comes in. If this company chooses to partner with certain colleges, it allows students to have a reliable, safe, and effective means of transportation for their cars. Not only is this a great opportunity to service college students in need but it also is a great marketing opportunity.

A1 Auto Transport would be seen as a hero of sorts, a company that helped out kids who needed it; transporting the car, the project that brought them together. These cars represent hundreds of hours to these kids and to be able to see their vehicles compete in autocross events is a major source of pride for them. Without this, these college kids would likely be stuck in their dorm rooms watching someone do the same task on YouTube and wishing that they could get out and do it themselves. These clubs are very important to help students connect with their communities and meet with people that they would not normally meet in their daily lives on campus.

In addition to this, car clubs tend to attract the people who are not currently playing a sport, it is a club that many people can enjoy and something that a student can take pride in without having to be a star athlete or a member of the school’s drama troop. The ability for a student to get out of his or her dorm room and accomplish something with their hands could be a crucial step towards combatting the loneliness epidemic that is sweeping across the colleges in America. One cannot feel lonely, surrounded by fellow students whose work has finally brought a small-block V8 engine to life, after much hard work and collaboration. This endeavor could truly create community and potentially save the lives as well as improve the mental health and trajectory of many college students, who’s auto clubs are partnered with A1 Auto transport.

Submitted by Hayden Kirkpatrick on 13/02/2020

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