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New students begin college careers with Day of Service

Thursday, August 13, 2015

File Photo: 2014 Day of Service

Nearly 700 new students will leave Mercyhurst University on Monday, Aug. 24, for Freshman Day of Service only to return as ambassadors of service.

The Day of Service is one of Mercyhurst’s most unforgettable student traditions, said service learning coordinator Bethany Brun ’11. As representatives of the Mercyhurst community, freshmen come together during this event to help others in the Erie community.

This tradition is also the first shared experience for new Lakers; it not only unites the freshman class, but it instills within them the Mercyhurst core values. At Mercyhurst, we are socially merciful, globally responsible, compassionately hospitable, intellectually creative, reflectively aware, and ambassadors of service.

The service experience is also a tradition on the North East campus, where the new Saints deliver a day of service in the surrounding North East community. Michelle Simpson, director of student life at Mercyhurst North East, said she expects between 100 and 120 students to participate, as well as faculty and staff. Groups of five students and a faculty or staff leader will travel to locations around North East Monday morning, Aug. 24, and participate in activities including reading to children, picking up litter and painting and cleaning. 

“Day of Service is the one activity that unifies the entire student body. Despite their different majors or activities, every single new student completes Day of Service,” said Brun. “It helps them gain a better understanding of the larger community outside of campus.”

As the Carpe Diem Award winner and student commencement speaker at her 2011 graduation from Mercyhurst, Brun invited her peers to stand when a team, club or activity they participated in was named.

“When I said ‘Freshman Day of Service’ it made every last person stand up,” she said. “I said, ‘Look around. You were part of the Mercyhurst community and you experienced an education of the whole person.’ It was all of the different experiences we had at Mercyhurst — including this Day of Service — that made us who we are today.”

During Day of Service, each student engages in at least two hours of community service at one of 23 sites throughout Erie County. That equates to more than 2,000 volunteer hours and more than $44,000 worth of service for local nonprofit organizations. When all is said and done, it makes a significant impact, said Brun.

This year, the largest group of students — 100 in total — will head to Presque Isle State Park to pick up trash from beaches that attract an estimated four million tourists annually.

About 50 students will spend their time at Asbury Woods Nature Center, pruning the public nature trails, clearing vegetation off boardwalks, collecting trash and adding mulch to gardens.

Students will also visit the Erie Zoo to create décor for the park’s annual Halloween bash, Zoo Boo; they will visit veterans at the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home to participate in a scavenger hunt and play balloon volleyball; and they will spend time with residents at the Springhill Senior Living Center to create a master song list as part of a music therapy program, which benefits residents who suffer from memory loss and anxiety.

This year, the 12th president of Mercyhurst University, Michael T. Victor, will also address the Class of 2019, sending them on their way to the service sites after posing for a class photo on the lawn of Old Main.

For more information about Mercyhurst Erie’s Freshman Day of Service, contact Bethany Brun at 814-824-2343. For more information on Saints in Service Day, call Michelle Simpson at 814-725-7060.