UCF Volunteers Honored with Governor’s Medal of Unity

marks-governors-medalMadeline Marks has always wanted to help people. That’s why she is seeking a doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida.

“Everyone has a job,” she said. “Some people’s jobs involve teaching high school, running electrical wires, reporting the news, fighting fires. My job involves helping individuals heal invisible wounds. I’m blessed to be doing something that I love and am passionate about that is helping others after they’ve experienced a traumatic event.”

Marks and psychology professor Deborah Beidel, Ph.D., were among the UCF volunteers who responded to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12. They helped victims and first responders in the weeks that followed.

Gov. Rick Scott recently recognized their work by awarding them and several others the Governor’s Medal of Unity in an Orlando ceremony.

“We were working with first responders in the initial days after the event,” Beidel said. “We attended several debriefings conducted by Orange County – at each one, providing information on common reactions to trauma and what to expect over the next few weeks, as well as providing psychological first aid to individuals who were impacted as a result of their involvement in the event.”

Beidel is the founding director of UCF RESTORES, a clinical research center devoted to the treatment of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, which provided treatment to victims and first responders at no cost. As part of the educational mission of UCF RESTORES, Beidel also created a brochure titled “In the Aftermath of Trauma” that contained information and resources for those emotionally impacted by the Pulse tragedy. The brochure was distributed throughout the Orlando community.beidel-governors-medal

Christine Mouton, director of UCF Victim Services and the regional coordinator of the Florida Crisis Response Team, nominated Beidel and Marks to the governor’s office for the award. Marks works under Beidel’s supervision at the UCF RESTORES clinic, treating patients with anxiety disorders and PTSD.

Several others from UCF were also recognized including assistant vice president Belinda Hyppolite, senior victim advocate Coretta Cotton and Mouton. Several police officers also received medals.

“It has meant a lot to me to be able to play a role in my patients’ road to healing,” Marks said. “This road is not an easy one. It requires a lot of hard work and effort on their part. Their trust in me, my colleagues, and this program is a testament to their strength and courage.”

Beidel said it is sometimes unavoidable to let such a tragedy darken personal lives, even when not directly impacted by the shooting. But she said we should all take a cue from the first responders.

“I remain humbled by actions of our first responders that night and their constant service to our community,” she said. “This entire incident has made me more aware of the fact that we are all on this earth together and what makes us alike is so much stronger than what can drive us apart. I don’t think I will ever lose my anger at the lives lost and forever impacted by the hatred of one person, but I know that I will spend the rest of my life living the mantra that love is stronger than hate.”


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