Unity, Maine – February, 2011 –  There is never an appropriate context for violence in a relationship.

That is a central message of ALA (Ask, Listen and Act), a Unity College student group that promotes campus-wide education programs designed to promote awareness of health and wellness in all of its forms.

On Tuesday, February 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. members of ALA will host an anti-violence program in Tozier Gymnasium on the campus of Unity College, 90 Quaker Hill Road, Unity. The program is free and open to the general public, though focused on the College community.

Sponsored by ALA and the Harrison Aldrich Wellness Center at Unity College, the event will feature a variety of activities including presenting students with the opportunity to take a non-violence pledge and, after painting their palms, place their hand print on a banner promoting wellness.  The simple yet powerful pledge is: “These hands will not harm another.”

The banner project is also part of the Dean’s Cup, a program run by the Office of Residence Life featuring community building competitions held throughout the academic year.  Each student who takes the non-violence pledge and imprints his or her palm on the banner will be registered.

Several area organizations will host information booths including The Humane Society of Waterville; The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA); New Hope for Women; and Hardy Girls Healthy Women.  Scheduled speakers include Michele Leavitt, attorney, writer, poet and spouse of President Stephen Mulkey; Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William Trumble; Dean for Student Affairs Gary Zane, among others.

“This is a fun event designed to encourage and promote a healthy, nonviolent attitude among the campus community,” explained Tiffany DeMell ’15, a Captive Wildlife Care and Education major / Psychology minor from Cooperstown, New York.  Aside from academics DeMell was attracted to attending Unity College because of its positive atmosphere, values that stress the importance of community service, and warm, supportive community.

Mentors to the ALA group include Wellness Center intern Heather Bryant, a University of Maine graduate student who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work; Anna McGalliard, Director of Student Health Services; Julie Johnson, Clinical Counselor, and Carleen Johnson, Administrative Assistant.

“A healthy and nonviolent environment is critical to the success of any community,” said McGalliard.  “We want to recognize the positive choices people make every day that support nonviolence.”

Cassandra Alston ’12, a Wildlife Biology major from Hampton, Virginia, has helped plan the event.  She is no stranger to community service.  While in high school she volunteered with several community organizations, and most recently she organized a volunteer trip for students to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville, Maine.

Bryant, Alston, DeMell and other ALA participants who have organized this event are united in their central message that violence should be confronted, and that there are positive approaches to problem solving.

Other participants in ALA who have helped to organize the event on February 14 are Tasha Iven ’15, a Captive Wildlife Care and Education major from Saint Louis, Missouri, and Dean Sheehan ’15, an Adventure Therapy major from Ridgefield, Connecticut.

The forthcoming event on February 14 is part of ongoing efforts by ALA to bring violence in all of its form to the forefront within the Unity College community.

Commitment to the cause is not lacking among ALA participants, who have pursued other successful, often creative activities designed to diminish stigma and build peer support. One activity featured a body paint question on the back of one’s hand with the simple question “ask?”  When students inquired about the point, the ALA member would engage them in a conversation about mental health and available services on campus.

“Our hopes for the future include really getting our message out there,” said Iven.  “We are letting everyone in this community know that there is support at every turn.  Also, our message includes educating the community about the ways to address conflict that are positive.”

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

In 2011, Unity College was named to the top 30 of the Washington Monthly college rankings, and was one of eighteen U.S. colleges and universities named to The Princeton Review’s 2010 Green Rating Honor Roll.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012