Daybreaker Campus Reinvents College Partying

By Helaina Hovitz 05/26/17

This is an environment in which students can have fun and relax without risking the anxiety, depression, and relationship problems that often result from alcohol-related incidents.

People having fun at sunrise
Daybreaker sober parties are spreading through campuses across the country promoting sober fun and interaction.

The "morning movement" Daybreaker has hosted sober sunrise parties for years, and now they're bringing them to young people—stressed out students, specifically—in a bid to reduce alcohol-related incidents and provide relief.

The Daybreaker Campus experience, which includes an hour-long yoga and fitness session followed by a two-hour, alcohol-free dance party with DJs, live music performances and a speaker series with a roster of NASA astronauts, CEOs and entrepreneurs, takes places in the mornings, hence the name—but can it make a lasting impact when nights, weekends, and keg parties come along?

Unless you’re ahead of the game and started your drinking career in high school or even middle school, college is the ultimate mecca for binge drinking and partying.

It’s wonderful to imagine getting a friendly hug at the door instead of a mean-mug from a bouncer, but could introducing this idea of partying without intoxication really create an entirely new framework in which young people would see socializing without the need for alcohol or drugs?

Daybreaker was born out of a frustration over nightlife and a desire to bring community back in an authentic, positive way, explains CEO and Co-Founder Radha Agrawal. She points to a statistic reported by the American Psychological Association that shows the main concerns among college students are anxiety, depression and relationship problems largely due to alcohol-related incidents. In fact, the demand for psychological services at the University of Central Florida — one of the country’s largest universities with roughly 60,000 students — grew so rapidly, they began converting supply closets into therapists’ offices. Pair this with a typical coping mechanism of weekend binge drinking and a lack of genuine social connection, she says, and the anxiety loop is only exacerbated.

“Eli and I have several friends and family who have been struggling with drug and alcohol abuse who are in college now on campuses where everyone is on their cellphones and the only outlet is a drunken frat party,” Agrawal says.

But if a student is prone to alcoholism or addiction, could an outlet like this really stop that person from going down that path of trying drugs or alcohol and becoming addicted, if it is a genetic disease? Agrawal says, “Absolutely.”

“I've had several partners who are recovering alcoholics, and one of the main things they talk about in recovery is to look for alternative social outlets outside of bars and nightclubs,” she says. “Right now there are few and far between on college campuses. If they're not exposed, they're less tempted. So yes, we can really help by offering an alternative for anyone who is prone to addiction.”

It is true that when there is less temptation or opportunity, there is a lower risk of usage, but kids—and adults—can always get their hands on a glass of something if they really set out to do it. Thus, the goal of Daybreaker in colleges is really to help normalize sober socializing and reinforce the idea that you don't need a drink in your hand to connect with someone and have some fun.

Right now, the party is underway at ten college campuses across the U.S. including the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, and University of Colorado Boulder, with plans to double that number next year and introduce something else “still in the works” for the fall. Among these populations, says Agrawal, there are young people unlocking parts of themselves that have been “in hiding,” like the confidence of getting into your body on the dance floor while sober, talking to strangers while sober, and the silliness of dressing up in costume and wearing glitter.

“We teach you to stop judging yourself and each other, and to just let go."

I have to admit that if these parties were available while I was still in college, I’m not sure if I would have checked them out, especially at the crack of dawn. However, I always longed for some form of partying, socializing and especially dancing that didn’t require me to hop in a cab at 11:30pm to head out for a night of clubbing or drinking, and I do wonder how things may have been different if this option had been available to me from 2007-2011 when I was still an undergrad.

We all know that nothing can stop an active alcoholic except—well, themselves, and their own desire to stop drinking.

With that being the case, if we look at these parties not as a way to stop potential alcoholics from ever picking up a drink, but as a way to show young people that there are other options for having fun without alcohol out there, there’s really no downside to Daybreaker, just the planting of a seed that a fun and fulfilling experience—dare we say life?—is possible without alcohol.

Ready to dance and curious if your school's on the list? Check out the Daybreaker Campus sign-up page.

Helaina Hovitz is an editor, writer, and author of After 9/11. She has written for the New York Times, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Salon, Newsday, Forbes, Women's Health, HEALTH, VICE, Newsweek, and many others. She spends her daytime/weekday hours at Upworthy/GOOD. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook or at

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Helaina Hovitz is an editor, journalist, and author of After 9/11. She has written for The New York Times, Salon, Glamour, Women's Health, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, VICE, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, The New York Observer and many others. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or