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MNE criminal justice students spruce up Route 89

Monday, November 3, 2014

Route 89 in North East looks a lot cleaner, thanks to the efforts of the Mercyhurst North East Criminal Justice Club.

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, 56 MNE students, administrators and faculty took to the streets around the campus for the annual fall cleanup organized by the Criminal Justice Club.

“The club adopted a segment of Route 89 that runs alongside the college down to Route 5 through PennDOT’s Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful program, and we clean up the campus as well,” said Steve Szwejbka, director of the MNE Criminal Justice program and assistant professor of criminal justice. “We’ve been doing it twice a year for about 15 years, once in the spring and once in the fall.”

From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., volunteers filled 24 large bags with paper, cans, fast-food wrappers and other refuse from along the approximately 1.5-mile stretch. One ambitious volunteer even hauled back a cracked flat-screen television – “definitely the most unique item I saw,” Szwejbka added.

PennDOT provides gloves and visibility vests for the volunteers, and the college donates the trash bags. The cleanup is open to anyone willing to lend a hand, and people passing by will often walk up and offer to help, Szwejbka said.

“I’m so happy the college community backs this,” he said. “It’s nice to see that sense of ownership among everyone here, students, faculty and staff.”

The North East community responds positively as well.

“Our neighbors love seeing the students out picking up garbage,” Szwejbka said. “Sometimes college kids get a bad rap; people think they’re messy. But based on the comments I’ve heard, people are very appreciative.”

Szwejbka said service to the community is especially important for those students studying criminal justice, which is why Mercyhurst North East instills in its students a sense of giving.

“Our criminal justice students will be going into careers where they’ll be asked to give a little bit, dealing with underserved populations and the disenfranchised,” Szwejbka said. “In keeping with the Sisters of Mercy tradition, I want our students to leave here with more than a two-year degree. I want them to put their stamp on the community, to go out and do something good.”

PHOTO: MNE volunteers, (l-r): Chad Kauffman; Zach Meadows; Wayne Sheaffer, Jr.; Kalif Hassan; Michael Kloss; Niko Dieudonne; Alexander Burgos; Natalie Rosario; Jonathan Clover.