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Michelle Ahrens honored for service

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sophomore Michelle Ahrens, who genuinely embodies the university’s core values, is just the kind of student the Sisters of Mercy likely envisioned as the future of Mercyhurst when they founded the college in 1926.

A double major in religious studies and social work, Ahrens is a recipient of the 2014 Newman Civic Fellows Award for her dedication to service and the betterment of Erie, where she was born and raised.

Ahrens was among 197 students nationwide selected to receive the award. Recipients are those identified as inspirational student leaders who “demonstrate an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country” as well as having exemplified dedication to service, research and advocacy.

Newman Civic Fellows are nominated by college and university presidents as representative of the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders. They also exemplify the role that higher education has in making a better world.

In the nomination letter from President Tom Gamble, Ph.D., Ahrens is described as dedicated, hospitably compassionate and an engaged scholar.

“Michelle has less than a two-year history with Mercyhurst University; yet, at only age 18, she has a maturity and commitment to selflessness that is simply inspiring,” wrote Gamble.

Before she graduates with the Class of 2016, Ahrens will have spent hundreds of hours in service. During the 2013-14 academic year, Ahrens averaged 20 hours every week in service, including:

  • Teaching art, environmental and Junior Achievement lessons to children of refugees at the House of Mercy.
  • Visiting area churches that host Our Neighbor’s Place, a mobile overflow shelter for Erie’s transitional homeless population.
  • Volunteering and driving student-volunteers on weekends to a local soup kitchen to serve meals and visit patrons.
  • Working as a lead volunteer during Mercyhurst’s annual Empty Bowls hunger awareness dinner.
  • And, traveling with peers to northern urban cities during J-Term to examine social justice issues and offer help to churches and charities.

Newman Civic Fellows Awards are made in memory of Frank Newman, a scholar, educator and advocate of providing opportunities for a college education to diverse and economically challenged students as well as educating students on becoming active citizens in service. Newman co-founded Campus Compact — the organization that names recipients of the award — with the presidents of Stanford, Brown and Georgetown universities in 1985.

For more information on the Newman Civic Fellows Award, visit

PHOTO: President Tom Gamble, left, and Service Learning Director Colin Hurley congratulate Michelle Ahrens.