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UAlbany’s Middle Earth Program Wins Grants to Promote Healthy Dating Relationships and Best Practices in Prevention Field

Middle Earth Director M. Dolores Cimini accepts a check from Dominion Foundation representatives as Vice President for Student Success Christine Bouchard looks on.   

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 31, 2011) --

The University at Albany’s nationally recognized Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program has been awarded grants to promote healthy dating relationships and to support dissemination of best practices in the prevention field.

With the first grant from the Avon Foundation for Women, Middle Earth peer educators will promote healthy dating relationships and provide preventive education on dating abuse and violence, sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. They will also offer local resources to students and provide referrals to community-based domestic violence experts.

Women ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of partner violence and dating abuse. According to the National Dating Abuse Helpline, one in three young women who have been in a serious relationship say they have been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.

The grant is managed by the Avon Foundation for Women through its Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative, and comes from the fashion boutique mark., as part of its m.powerment Healthy Relationship Peer Educator program.

The second grant, from the Dominion Foundation, will be used to support national dissemination of best practices in the prevention field that UAlbany has developed through Middle Earth. Each of the two grants is $10,000.

Student leaders from the Middle Earth program recently returned from the Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students (BACCHUS) Peer Education Network National Conference in Indianapolis, where they claimed three awards, more than any of the more than 100 competing colleges and universities.

UAlbany won $150 for outstanding program, and $300 for excellence in peer education for a college or university of 12,000 or more students. UAlbany junior and Middle Earth Vice President Nicole Jean earned the outstanding student prize. The trip was made possible by the multi-year sponsorship of the Dominion Foundation.

“I am so honored to be serving as the director of the Middle Earth program at a time when the organization is so active and vibrant,” said director M. Dolores Cimini, a licensed psychologist. “It’s a delight to have the opportunity to work with such dedicated and motivated undergraduate students who are truly exceptional in their efforts to help and support their peers, and to communicate science-based prevention messages both at UAlbany and beyond.”

At Middle Earth, some 160 UAlbany students volunteer as peer hotline workers, educators, and peer career advisers who undergo a rigorous selection process and training in alcohol and drug abuse prevention, sexual assault, and suicide prevention education. They learn listening and communication skills, crisis intervention, and peer theater techniques. The latter is required for participation in the Middle Earth Players, an improvisational theater group which has become the program’s strongest and most visible peer education initiative since its inception in 1997.

Middle Earth has been recognized as a model prevention program by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.