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The BACCHUS Network™ Organization History

historyThe BACCHUS Network™ is celebrating over 30 years of excellence in student and young adult leadership development and health promotion. The Network's mission has been to support student leadership in promoting health and safety and saving students' lives since 1975. Founded at the University of Florida by students with the support of Gerardo Gonzalez and Tom Goodale, this first group organized as a response to the need for alcohol awareness and abuse prevention. They chose to call themselves "BACCHUS," an acronym for Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students.

This was the first student organization of its kind, and word quickly spread throughout higher education and the term "peer education" was born. Thanks to wide acceptance in the student affairs profession and through our early government and corporate supporters, the organization incorporated in 1980 as BACCHUS of the U.S., Inc., and began to offer services, educational materials and training conferences to a fast growing network of college campuses. The BACCHUS peer education model soon spread to other campuses across the nation.

In 1985, as an outgrowth of an effort to welcome more fraternity and sorority students into the peer education umbrella, GAMMA (Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol) began and soon hundreds of campus Greek systems were organizing peer education groups known as GAMMA affiliates. In recognition of this, the organization name was changed in the early 1990s to The BACCHUS and GAMMA Peer Education Network. Our campus groups were starting to address a variety of health and safety issues, including alcohol abuse prevention, and choosing a campus affiliate name that best met their unique community needs.

As the organization approached its 30th anniversary, the Board of Trustees, the staff, the professional volunteers and the Student Advisory Committee discussed the organization's future. One of the results of these discussions was the conclusion that the organization name, The BACCHUS and GAMMA Peer Education Network, was simply too complex and needed to be streamlined. The name was seen as an impediment to growth because it makes it difficult for some groups to identify as part of BACCHUS or GAMMA. After a great deal of discussion, input and feedback from stakeholders, the Board of Trustees instructed us to change the name to The BACCHUS Network™ effective July 1, 2005.

(We kept the word BACCHUS in respect of our founding and history, and our established identity within Higher Education, but we no longer use the acronym since our mission now includes many health and safety issues.)

The BACCHUS Network™ is the place to support student leadership and peer education on health and safety issues – no matter your group name, specialized health interest, or social affiliation. Involvement as a student leader or advisor in our Network is often a very personal and passionate story. The peer education experience gives students the confidence to believe in themselves and the power of influence they have on others. For some, peer education is a life-changing moment for themselves or someone they help.

As many peer educators graduate and advisors move on to other career opportunities, they take with them the pearls of their involvement - compassion, wisdom, sense of service, sense of self, organization, leadership – to use in their next professional, civic or academic role.

What started as a student led alcohol abuse prevention effort at one campus has grown to the largest active student organization in Higher Education today. Peer education has literally become an expectation of any comprehensive campus prevention program and BACCHUS continues to provide cutting edge resources and programs for students on a wide variety of health topics on alcohol issues and beyond. Peer education programs focusing on alcohol abuse, tobacco, violence prevention, sexual health, safety, physical and mental health issues all find a home in our Network.