Nichols Students’ NC22Challenge PTSD-Awareness Campaign Raises Enough Money to Pay for Two Veterans’ Treatment at The Warrior Connection


DUDLEY, Mass.—For Nichols College, the season of giving started Nov. 1, with the #NC22Challenge to help The Warrior Connection (TWC), a non-profit organization in Vermont that supports military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Students in two classes taught by Nichols Professor Priscila Alfaro-Barrantes, Ph.D., organized, marketed, and participated in the #NC22Challenge. Their goal was to raise $2,500 from Nov. 1 to Nov. 27 (#GivingTuesday) by each donating $22 to TWC, filming each other doing 22 push-ups and challenging their friends, professors, and others on social media to do the same.  

The campaign’s result was more than successful: The students exceeded their goal and raised approximately $5,000. 

Beyond reaching their monetary goal, the students were able to learn and apply concepts related to servant leadership and social media marketing. They were also able to learn more about the impact that PTSD has on veterans and how important it is for civilians to get involved and lend a helping hand. 

Professor Alfaro-Barrantes is a first-year professor at Nichols who hails from Costa Rica, where she studied communications and public relations. She obtained a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in sport management with a concentration in marketing, and a Ph.D. from Florida State University in sport management with a concentration in organizational behavior.  

Having her students take on a challenge but also have a hands-on experience was important.  

“I taught ‘Learning to Lead’ and ‘Principles of Marketing’ courses this semester and having my students face a challenge but also have that face-to face-connection was crucial,” she said. “They can also apply aspects of what they learn from it outside the classroom.” 

The #NC22Challenge challenged people to do 22 pushups for veterans that face PTSD, and to spread the word about the fundraiser on social media by using the trending hashtag term.  

“We chose to do this challenge because we thought it would be important to recognize veterans who face PTSD,” Alfaro-Barrantes explained. Her students contacted TWC to propose the fundraiser. Every $22 raised from the #NC22Challenge directly went to TWC.   

Both Alfaro-Barrantes’s classes each had their own challenges to make the project happen.  

“Each of my classes were responsible for different aspects involving the project,” she said. “My marketing class did the bulk of it, looking at how we could get social media involved, how we could create this event, and conducting the research. While my leadership class promoted the -challenge and were leaders outside of the classroom, too, with promotion.”  

Students began to work on the project well before November.  

“We started to get ideas in the summer, and as soon as September hit, we got to work on what type of challenge we wanted to take on,” said Professor Alfaro-Barrantes. “Even during Thanksgiving break, my students were still working on the challenge.”  

The reason “22” was such a prominent number in the project was because every day 22 veterans suffering from PTSD lose their lives to suicide.  

“This challenge really hit home for some students, and we wanted Nichols to know that veterans and people who are going through this don’t have to go through it alone,” said Professor Alfaro-Barrantes.  

Earlier this fall, she and her students contacted one of the veterans from the foundation who personally experienced PTSD, TWC Executive Director Aarron Phillips. Professor Alfaro-Barrantes initially arranged a Skype session the students, but Phillips thought it would be better if he came to Nichols in person.  

During an Oct. 23 campus presentation on the #NC22Challenge, Phillips spoke about TWC’s mission and goals, and shared facts about PTSD. He explained that he wants to scale the TWC program nationally to serve the affected population; keep services free for veterans and their families; engage donors and “vetrepreneurs”; and to raise $150,000 by January. 

“When I was first connected with Nichols College students, I was very excited they wanted me to come speak,” Phillips told Heard on The Hill. “I believe when you have that face-to-face connection with someone, it hits home, and there’s more of an impact.” 

Phillps served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Before his service, however, he faced so much violence that affected the way he saw the world around him.  

“I was involved with violence at such a young age. My father was a police officer, and I was involved in a gang. My best friend was shot right in front of me when I was 17. From being held back, or at least I thought I was being held back, I got into a lot of trouble,” Phillips said.  

After high school, Phillps joined the Marine Corps.  

“In high school, I treated people as if they were objects, however I had to physically change my mindset,” he said. “Through the Marines, I learned so many different things, but when I came home, I found that I was a different person mentally.” 

Phillips would later discover that he was suffering from PTSD, which led him to calling out for help; he contacted The Warrior Connection.  

“The Warrior Connection helps veterans find a bright future for themselves,” he said. “I lost two friends to suicide, and I always thought my day was around the corner. This program helped bring my life back. It doesn’t matter about gender or race; the common goal of this program is to unite us together, as one.” 

The #NC22Challenge inspired the whole Nichols College community to come together as one to participate and inspire others.  

“I was in the ‘Learning to Lead’ class, and it was just so amazing to see everyone come together and accomplish something so big,” said Amber Grybowski, a first-year student from Charlton, Mass., major in mathematics. “Working in teams and communicating with each other was huge.” 

Brian Edmands, a first-year sport management major from Amesbury, Mass., said: “This challenge helped me realize that PTSD is something that can change someone’s life and have a ripple effect on the rest of their life and their loved ones. This project was at first a little overwhelming, but by working together we made it happen. I was honored to be chosen to be such a big part in this campaign. We ended up raising enough money to send to two veterans to a retreat which was a huge accomplishment.” 

The end goal on #GivingTuesday (Nov. 27) was $8,000 raised by The Warrior Foundation—with $5,000 of that raised through Nichols College’s help.  

“Healing comes from the inside, you can’t fix others, only you can fix yourself,” Phillips said. “No matter what challenge you face in life, you can face it with the help of others. The overall destination, however, is decided by you.”  

The following students organized and participated in the #NC22Challenge: 

Principles of Marketing class 

  • Nadiv Bangura ‘22 of Tyngsborough, Mass. 
  • MacKenzie Boyd ‘22 of Franklin, Mass. 
  • Joe Cox ‘22 of Mansfield, Mass. 
  • Sophie Czerepica ‘22 of Malden, Mass. 
  • Brian Edmands ‘22 of Amesbury, Mass. 
  • Daniel Espinosa ‘22 of Tamarc, Fla. 
  • Kevin Keohane ‘21 of Oak Ridge, N.J. 
  • Jan Kopas ‘22 of Worcester, Mass. 
  • Evan Lemoine ‘22 of Rutland, Mass. 
  • Jared Locke ‘22 of Paxton, Mass. 
  • Sam Lynch ‘22 of Peabody, Mass. 
  • Robert Maguire ‘22 of Pelham, N.Y. 
  • Connor McKenzie ‘22 of Methuen, Mass. 
  • Melody Millett ‘21 of Naples, Maine 
  • Samantha Morin ‘22 of Thompson, Conn. 
  • Steven Ormil ‘22 of Margate, Fla. 
  • Justin Perron ‘22 of Thetford Mines, Quebec, Canada 
  • Jacob Plikus ‘22 of Oakdale, Conn. 
  • Mareka Reid ‘22 of Covington, Ga. 
  • Regan Richard ‘22 of Wolcott, Conn. 
  • Courtney Schullery ‘22 of Warren, Conn. 
  • Devin Stewart ‘22 of Northborough, Mass. 
  • Daniel Sweeney ‘22 of North Reading, Mass. 
  • Katherine Wainwright ‘22 of Worcester, Mass. 


Learning to Lead class 

  • Samantha Ahaesy ‘22 of North Dartmouth, Mass. 
  • David Caron ‘22 of Branford, Conn. 
  • James Chasco-Dimauro ‘22 of Rocky Hill, Conn. 
  • Matthew Cravedi ‘22 of Sterling, Mass. 
  • Nicholas Defroscia ‘22 of Coral Springs, Fla. 
  • William Deleary ‘22 of Wakefield, Mass. 
  • Brendan Duffy ‘22 of Stratford, Conn. 
  • Brian Edmands ‘22 of Amesbury, Mass. 
  • Shannon Gauthier ‘22 of North Grosvenordale, Conn. 
  • Amber Grybowski ‘22 of Charlton, Mass. 
  • William Guglielmo ‘22 of Middlebury, Conn. 
  • Cooper Hewitt ‘22 of Barre, Vermont 
  • Collin Hunter ‘22 of Taunton, Mass. 
  • Sydney Jordan ‘22 of Halifax, Mass. 
  • Samantha Kostek ‘22 of Oxford, Conn. 
  • Mandy Laporte ‘22 of Douglas, Mass. 
  • Dylan McNamara ‘22 of Newport, N.H. 
  • Thomas Parda ‘22 of Marlborough, Mass. 
  • Dante Purretta ‘22 of Oxford, Mass. 
  • Matthew Rainsford ‘22 of Sterling, Mass. 
  • Tove Selberg ‘22 of Luleå, Sweden 
  • Andrew Smith ‘22 of Charlton, Mass. 
  • Owen Smith ‘22 of East Falmouth, Mass. 
  • Rachael Veilleux ‘22 of Wrentham, Mass. 


Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major at Nichols College and a public relations intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications. 

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