Two Students and their Mentor Authored a Book Together
by Monica Calzolari
How many published authors do you know who are just graduating from college? Meet Maria Pita and Morgan DeSimone. They are graduating from Hartwick College on May 19. Pita and DeSimone teamed up with Hartwick’s Gary Robinson, LMHC, and created a 365-day guided journal called The Daily Brew.
As a licensed mental health counselor at Hartwick for the past 20 years, Robinson recognized the value of daily reflection and journaling and how it can supplement professional counseling. Robinson points out that, “There are 168 hours in a week. Counseling is usually one hour per week.” That leaves 167 hours of time, some of which a person could use to reflect on patterns they see in their own lives. Robinson approached several students with the idea of creating a journal that students can use to “write out their feelings, sleep, and stress levels, and track what sets them off over time.”
DeSimone said, “We’ve put a year’s worth of work plus into creating The Daily Brew,” which the three individuals authored. This self-published journal will be available online through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other online book retailers after June 1, 2018. Outskirts Press is the publisher.
Over 25 years ago, the Hartwick College counseling center introduced peer counseling to supplement professional counseling and “may have been one of the first colleges to do so,” Robinson explained. In the past, “the stigma of seeking counseling was so high, fewer students would avail themselves of the services.” Robinson says, “This generation is much more comfortable with counseling.” Like professionals, peer counselors offer “support in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere.”
Each year, a group of Hartwick students apply to become peer counselors and eight-10 are selected as volunteers and are given extensive training by the counseling staff. The program is coined ‘Fifty-Fifty Peer Counseling’ because students offer to meet fellow students ‘halfway.’ Pita and Desimone have served as Fifty-Fifty Peer Counselors for the past three years under the supervision of the college’s professional counseling staff. Peer Counseling has been so successful at Hartwick that the reputation of the program has spread by “word of mouth,” according to Robinson. Cornell University, York College, Lebanon Valley College, and the US Coast Guard Academy have purchased Hartwick’s peer counseling manual for $50. This manual has been compiled by staff and students.
Maria Pita was born in Peru and grew up in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island. She double majored in Psychology and Spanish at Hartwick and intends to use her language and counseling skills to help people in both Spanish and English. She will be pursuing her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Long Island University this fall. “When I tell my friends that we just finished writing a book, they said ‘That’s a big deal.’ It just hit me last week what a big deal it is to be a published author.”
Morgan DeSimone is from New Paltz, New York and majored in Sociology. She chose Hartwick College because it is “small and homey” like her “hometown.” DeSimone will be using her Bachelor’s degree and extensive peer counseling training as a Care Manager with Rehabilitation Support Services in Schenectady, New York. She said, “I will be managing a case load of 50-55 individuals with mental health conditions.”
DeSimone credits the training she received to provide peer counseling to her classmates with helping her and Pita write the journal: “I think the training we had every year helped us formulate the prompts in the journal we created.”
One source of motivation for Pita finishing this project was the positive impact a journal can have on people. Pita said, “I want to help people even when I am not physically with them.” The journal “can also be beneficial for someone who is not comfortable going to counseling.”
Proceeds from the sale of the journal will go directly to the purchase of more journals which will be available to the counseling staff at Hartwick College. Students who express an interest in journaling and may not be able to afford to buy their own journal will receive a copy for free.