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Campaign expands to warn students of college dangers

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – The mother of an Indiana University freshman who died during her first week of college is expanding her efforts to help students learn from her daughter’s life and death. Rachael Fiege died in August of 2013, after falling down the stairs at her first college party.

Angi Fiege says her daughter, Rachael, may have lived if someone had called for help that night. Since Rachael’s death, she’s led a campaign to educate students about the Lifeline Law and the dangers of alcohol. This week Angi Fiege held “Rachael’s First Week” sessions at Ball State University and Franklin Community High School.

24-Hour News 8 attended the session at FCHS. In an auditorium of 400 high school seniors, images from Rachael Fiege’s life played on a big screen. Her closest friends picked up the story where the video left off.

“I felt like my world stopped and my whole life went upside down,” said Hanna Elliot, Fiege’s best friend.

The five young women are only 1-2 years older than the high schoolers, but those two years have been filled with a loss they don’t want anyone else to know.

“The guilt that you live with after that doesn’t go away,” said one friend.

Emergency room crews led the discussion, but it’s the personal stories that hit home. That’s why the young women have joined Angi Fiege in launching a website and social media campaign with a high school and college tour to tell students about “Rachael’s First Week.”

“It is hard. It’s hard to relive it. But I think it’s worth it to tell these kids it’s real,” said Elliot.

The young women call Angi Fiege “Momma Fiege.” Rachael’s friends have taken on Fiege as the group’s mother.

“It’s incredibly painful to lose your daughter. And you could perseverate on all the things that you’re not going to have, but look at all the things I have. I have many, many young girls that call me mom,” said Fiege.

This week, for the first time, students could text or email questions anonymously. Fiege said previously students have not asked questions because they had to stand up in front of an audience.

With the new technology, for the first time, there were too many questions to answer. Questions like “How do you cope with the death of a classmate?” or “How do you know if someone is passed out or sleeping?”

Now the group is reaching schools out of Indiana, developing specific messages for college Greek systems and working on a program geared toward men.

“Rachael always wanted to be a nurse or a doctor, so in my eyes this is her legacy to save someone,” said Elliot.

After the program, one FCHS student came and hugged Fiege tightly.

“It’s definitely something I’ll never forget,” she told Fiege.

“I think Rachael would be happy we took a tragedy and tried to turn it into something good. Hopefully, up there in Heaven, that’s what she’s thinking,” said Fiege.

Students can ask questions on the Rachael’s First Week website or get information through the group’s social media accounts.