Student Psychological Resilience Project established at SUNY New Paltz thanks to philanthropic gift

Student Resilience Advocates Taofiq Oukpedjo ’ 22 (Psychology) and Caitlin Pastore ’22g (School Counseling) provide psychological first aid education and stress management tools to SUNY New Paltz students

SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation are pleased to announce the establishment of the Student Psychological Resilience Project Fund, which provides students with the training and skills needed to cope with stress related to the pandemic and multiple other challenges through a peer advocacy model.

“Mental health issues, including the prevalence of sub-clinical stress and anxiety among students, have reached record levels,” said Amy Nitza, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) and associate professor of psychology at SUNY New Paltz. “College students are currently living through multiple losses due to the pandemic. They also continue to grapple with issues such as institutionalized racism, financial challenges and an unrelenting news stream, much of it not positive. This is different from acute trauma. It’s a fluid situation that requires them to be flexible and adaptive on a day-to-day basis.”

The Student Psychological Resilience Project Fund seeks to develop a comprehensive program in psychological first aid, psychoeducation and stress management to prepare all SUNY New Paltz students with the coping skills necessary to build a stable foundation for their future personal, academic and ultimately professional success. 

The new program is made possible thanks to support from alumnus Ira Schreck ’74 and his wife, Barbara S. Ginsberg. The two reside in High Falls, N.Y.

“We have a global pandemic, severe political dysfunction, systemic racism, climate change and a collapsing economy,” said Schreck. “It has never been more important to provide students with coping skills and help them find a measure of equilibrium, both for the present and to carry with them as they enter the world. This program is designed to do exactly that.”

SUNY New Paltz is home to multiple sources of expertise on mental health and student well-being, including Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH), the Psychological Counseling Center, Disability Resource Center, and Center for Student Excellence.

Under the guidance of IDMH Deputy Director Karla Vermeulen and Program Coordinator, Kelsey Valencia, the Fund will support the activities of 10 students who serve as Student Resilience Advocates to provide psychological first aid education and stress management tools through innovative programming and support.

Student Resilience Advocates

Undergraduate Students: Natalia Dos Santos Lopez ’22 (Sociology), Alyssa Dudinyak ’22 (Visual Arts), Caroline Guthrie ’20 (Psychology), Joshua Lococo ’22 (Theatre Arts), Taofiq Oukpedjo ’ 22 (Psychology), Zoe Perles ’22 (Spanish), Bibi Rahim ’ 22 (Finance and Management), Crystal Toledano ’22 (Communication Disorders). 

Graduate Students: Bianca Garcia ’22g (Mental Health Counseling), Brianna LeFever ’21g (School Counseling), Caitlin Pastore ’22g (School Counseling). 

“Psychological First Aid is the foundation for disaster mental health interventions, but it is equally effective at reducing stress reactions among people who are trying to cope with other less visible challenges, like the stress and trauma caused by the outbreak and the many other pre-existing issues of emerging adulthood,” said Vermeulen.

Follow the Student Resilience Advocates @np_resilience on Instagram and Twitter

“Mental health is an important issue that needs to be spoken about in the climate of a campus environment,” said Alyssa Dudinyak ’22 (Visual Arts). “I’m excited to be an advocate for mental health among my peers and to let them know that their concerns are not isolated. We’re all in this together and I want to help them through this.” 

Thanks to Schreck and Ginsberg, funding will support programming for two years beginning summer 2020.

A longtime friend of the College, Schreck has been practicing entertainment law for more than 30 years. A member of both the New York and California bars, he is a founding partner of Schreck Rose Dapello Adams Berlin & Dunham, which has offices in New York City and Beverly Hills.

After attending SUNY New Paltz, Schreck graduated as a Kent Scholar from Columbia Law School, and then clerked for U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin. In addition to his involvement with the Student Psychological Resilience Project Fund, he is on the Board of Directors of Opening Act, a not-for-profit that provides after-school theatre programs to New York City high schools, and the Board of Trustees of Second Stage Theatre. He is also a member of the Facilities Committee of the Mohonk Preserve.

Ginsberg, a graduate of Binghamton University and New York University School of Law, specialized in intellectual property and entertainment law before transitioning to volunteer work. Among other endeavors, she has represented survivors of domestic violence and served in the area of homelessness in New York City. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Mohonk Preserve.

Visit IDMH online for more information about their educational and trauma-response work, and stay up-to-date about the College’s response to COVID-19 via the College’s Coronavirus Information Hub.  

SUNY New Paltz Foundation

Founded in 1976, the Foundation works to enrich the quality of academic life at New Paltz by raising private contributions. Gifts to the SUNY New Paltz Foundation enhance the teaching, learning, and discovery that takes place on campus, and allow New Paltz to enrich the cultural, economic and social fabric of the Mid-Hudson region. For more information on the Foundation Board directors visit https://www.newpaltz.edu/give/board.html.