Members of UAlbany's Peace Action tell the group's story in front of the Campus Center. Left to right they are Paola Pelaez, Miriam Joseph, Haleigh Snare and President Aaron Gialanella.
ALBANY, N.Y. (December 12, 2016) — Providing community service and a voice for the underprivileged, and facilitating campaigns and presentations by members who are passionate about social justice, human rights and peace is the stated goal of UAlbany’s Peace Action student organization.
Aaron Gialanella, president of Peace Action, says the group likes to take action, not just talk about it.
With 25-30 active members this semester, the group incorporates ideas they feel strongly about and create campaigns that raise awareness. And in addition to helping those in need, members benefit by building leadership skills through organizing and carrying out events and projects.
One successful service campaign was October’s “Our Monthly Gift,” where members collected feminine hygiene products for women in homeless shelters.
The three-day tabling event was a way to raise awareness about issues that homeless women face and collect donations from students. Gialanella said they collected about 2,000 feminine products that were later donated to the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, an Albany-based organization that provides shelters and drop-in centers for people who are homeless.
Rachel Kennedy, a sophomore who has been an active member for a year and a half, said it’s been a humbling experience.
“This is an intervention into real-world issues,” she said. The “agents of change,” as they call themselves, work to increase awareness of important issues on campus, serve in the community and advocate for populations across the globe.
Haleigh Snare, Peace Action vice president, tables the organization's November campaign, “UAlbany Stands with Standing Rock,” concerning the construction of a pipeline across Sioux tribal land.
Kennedy is one of the many members who work at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ Albany office in the Pathways to College Refugee Mentorship Program, a community service project that pairs student mentors with new immigrants.
Peace Action is part of UAlbany’s Community and Public service program, where the members can earn up to three credits of service learning.
Kennedy said she enjoys helping people and likes that everyone gets a chance to serve and a chance to lead. “Everyone has full input and it’s a great learning experience,” she said, adding that she appreciates the opportunity to network and has met people who’ve been doing peace work for over 40 years.
In April, the group held “Young, Gifted, & ___,” an open discussion on oppression and other related subjects such as police brutality, racism, sexism and privilege.
The event was held as a "fishbowl discussion," where a statement pertaining to a specific group of people or identity was made and those who felt it applied to them stepped forward to form an inner circle to share their own experiences.
“It was a very powerful event and brought a lot of students together,” said Gialanella.
Member Carly Perkings helped organize a November campaign, “UAlbany Stands with Standing Rock,” to raise awareness about efforts to halt construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline across Sioux tribal land. She said the campaign was a good example of the organization’s goal: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
“I feel this is a great representation of our mission as an organization that is committed to progress and promoting social change on a grassroots level,” Gialanella said.