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Oconee campus plants tree in memory of deceased student


Students, faculty and staff on the University of North Georgia's Oconee campus recently held a memorial to remember Trent Madison, a 22-year-old from Acworth who died in February from an accidental overdose.

Madison had been taking classes at UNG since transferring there last summer. He was a business administration major and, based on his academic performance at the end of fall semester 2012, was invited to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Oconee Tree
A tulip poplar was planted on the
Oconee campus to remember Trent
Madison, who died in February.

Madison's father, Scotti Madison, spoke to those gathered at the April 23 memorial, candidly sharing his son's struggles with drugs and alcohol. He described his son as a handsome young man who never met a stranger and had made many friends in his short time at UNG, who loved life and loved making others laugh. Despite all of these winning attributes, Madison said, his son struggled with addiction.

Dr. Michelle Brown,  dean of students for the Oconee campus, said the Madison family hopes Trent's death serves as a warning to college students and their families.

"Trent’s family strongly wanted our students to be aware of the perils of alcohol and prescription drug use, including the reality that death can be the result for some who are addicted," Brown said. "Any student who needs help with addictive behaviors — or wants to learn about how to help a friend or family member who needs help — will find those in Student Counseling to be a great resource." 

Justin Earnest, a counselor on the Oconee campus who organized the memorial, said people struggling with addiction shouldn't feel embarrassed about seeking help.

"People need to know that addiction can happen to anyone. Many people who suffer from addictive diseases are in need of help, yet they will not ask for it because of the stigma that addiction carries with it," Earnest said. "Trent’s story is a testament to the fact that addiction can happen to anyone and that if it is left untreated, it can have severe consequences." 

After the memorial, Scotti Madison presented a check to the University of North Georgia Foundation - Gainesville, Inc. for $2,000 to fund four $500 scholarships to be awarded to students attending the memorial. A tree with a memorial marker donated by his classmates was planted on the front lawn of the campus in memory of Trent Madison. His father, mother and sister all spoke at the tree planting.

"It is powerful for me to see the many ways that people cope with their grief," Earnest said. "The fact that Trent’s father has managed to turn this tragedy into an opportunity to help others is inspiring. I think that we have a lot to learn from his example."     

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