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Lafayette College will host more than 200 students, advisers, and faculty from colleges and universities in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey for the BACCHUS and GAMMA Peer Education Network’s Region 11 conference April 1-2.

The BACCHUS and GAMMA Peer Education Network, headquartered in Denver, Colo., is an international association of college-based peer education programs dedicated to alcohol abuse prevention and related student health and safety issues.

“Lafayette is very excited to be hosting this conference, giving us an opportunity to showcase our peer education efforts and our campus to students and others from throughout our area,” says senior Carmen Marsit of Hazleton, Pa., a member of Team Peer Ed, an umbrella organization of Lafayette peer education groups.

The groups include SERCH (Students Educating on Responsible College Health), which focuses on responsible sexuality, nutrition, and stress-management programming; LEAD (Lafayette Education on Alcohol and Drugs), which provides programs on responsible drinking, alcohol poisoning, and the dangers of drugs; CORRE (Coalition on Rape and Relationship Education), which focuses on rape and sexual assault issues; PEASE (People Educating About Self Esteem), which focuses on eating disorders and self-esteem issues; HAPEN (HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education Now), a program of the Landis Community Outreach Center that provides education on HIV and AIDS; and Played Out, a peer theater ensemble.

Marsit says, “Peer education at Lafayette is probably the most common way of educating the campus about important wellness issues facing the community. Using trained, committed students as instructors about these topics helps to bring the message home to students. Students sit in classes all day, being lectured to by professors. When they are in their residence halls, the last thing they want is to be lectured by administrators or college professionals about their lives. Using students as educators, there is an established connection between the educator and the student, and the message is more ‘close to home.'”

The organizations sponsor programs in residence halls and social living groups, Marsit explains.

“Their programs are highly interactive, fun, and thought provoking, and are considered very helpful in educating Lafayette students,” says Marsit. “As a head resident advisor, I have seen many programs by these groups in my residence halls, and they are all very strong and informative. I think Lafayette students respond very well to the messages that they receive from these peer educators and the role modeling that occurs through peer education.”

The conference will feature a keynote address by H. Wesley Perkins of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, whose research has focused on students’ misconceptions (including misleading overestimations) of other students’ consumption of alcohol and other drugs. His findings have been central in what is called the “social norms movement” in alcohol and drug education on campuses throughout the country.

Also presenting at the conference will be Elaine Pasqua, who lost her mother and stepfather to AIDS, and. David Hellstrom, director of education and training for BACCHUS and GAMMA, who has a special interest in the use of theater as a tool for peer education. The conference also provides the opportunity for participating schools to share what has worked on their campuses and to gain ideas for new programs.

Categorized in: Students