UAlbany’s Middle Earth students garner national recognition and prestigious awards
Dolores Cimini, Mahaliel (J.R.) Bethea and Aliya Makki
When UAlbany students need advice about personal or school-related problems, Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program student volunteers are always ready to listen and to help. And their expertise recently earned them national acclaim.
In November, a number of the Middle Earth volunteers, along with director Dolores Cimini, Ph.D., went to Chicago for the annual Peer Education Network conference of BACCHUS and GAMMA (Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students/Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol). BACCHUS and GAMMA is an international association of college- and university-based peer education programs focused on alcohol abuse prevention and other issues related to student health and safety. UAlbany Middle Earth students went home from the conference with the largest number of awards.
Competing among 88 colleges and universities from across the nation, UAlbany won the Award for Excellence in Peer Education for a college or university of 12,000 or more, plus three other “Outstanding” awards for programs, exhibits and students. In addition to the awards, two Middle Earth members, Mahaliel (J.R.) Bethea and Aliya Makki, were elected to serve as officers of BACCHUS and GAMMA. J.R. was elected to a national student trustee position, and Aliya was elected regional representative for the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Canada.
J.R., a 20-year-old junior political science major and Student Association president, got involved with Middle Earth nearly three years ago “because a few people I knew told me that it was an awesome program. They loved it and figured I should give it a try.” Aliya, also 20, noticed posters for the program on campus in late 2003. “I enjoy helping people,” says the public policy major, “and was looking for a way to get involved in the school community.”
Middle Earth operates through the University’s Counseling Center. Volunteers run a hotline and provide peer education/peer theater program. Each year they respond to requests for assistance with issues that range from concerns about academic performance, loneliness, and interpersonal relationships, to problems with alcohol or other drugs, depression or anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, HIV/AIDS, and eating difficulties.
The recent BACCHUS and GAMMA conference called attention to the importance that Middle Earth has on the national scene. “Schools from all over the country look up to us for ideas on how to improve their organizations,” said Makki. Seeing the respect shown to Middle Earth at the conference really “brought out my school pride.”
Middle Earth Information & Application for Hotline and Peer Education Training (PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)