Students serve over break



Mercyhurst students traveled to Monroe, North Carolina, for the Habitat for Humanity trip.

Jordan Pendel, Staff writer

Spring break is usually a time for students to relax and get away from the troubles of class and homework. While some take advantage of the break, others join alternative spring break service trips.

A medical mission trip to Mexico, a Service Learning experience in Detroit and a Habitat for Humanity trip to Monroe, North Carolina, were three of the alternative spring break options.

Students studying health-related programs spent their spring break in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico, for a medical mission and cultural immersion experience. One group of students worked in a small rural village, helping to landscape and build a home for a woman named Rosario. She has six children and was recently saved from being sold into prostitution.

The rest of the group helped provide physical therapy in a government-aided clinic and assist with surgical procedures.

The mission trip to Mexico radically changed the way Anna Warner, junior Exercise Science and Sports Medicine double major, sees medicine, the call to service and her relationship with God.

“I have never been more at peace and filled with more joy than I am while in Mexico on these medical mission trips,” said Warner. “They have been humbling and, quite frankly, life-changing experiences.”

Mercyhurst partnered with Chosen International Medical Assistance, a Christian organization that provides medical treatment and service work to economically deprived countries. Students worked with one of the surgeons who founded the San Lucas Medical Center.

The group was led by Scott Michel, program director and assistant professor of Athletic Training, and Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement. They were also joined by two professors from Albion College.

This was the second year that Shelby Cameron, senior Public Health and Social Health Sciences double major, went on the trip. For her, the trip combines faith, service work and medical care.

“One thing that is true of the culture in the Yucatan is that the people there care about each other in a genuine way,” said Cameron. “In the U.S., we are very time and task-oriented. We don’t always put people first, and sometimes we fail to spend quality time with those who matter most.”

Another group traveled to Detroit for a Service Learning trip with Neighbors Building Brightmoor. The organization aims to reduce urban blight via urban farming and land reclamation.

Students made a compost pile, cleaned up around the community center area and worked at the community kitchen. The community farm provides an opportunity for the people in the Brightmoor community to learn about sustainable local farming.

At the end of the trip, students went to Brightmoor Artisans Collective to participate in small cleaning jobs and organizing and toured the Ford Rouge Factory.

Ella DiPietro, sophomore Intelligence Studies and Religious Studies double major, enjoyed her first spring break service trip.

“It was rewarding to help the people who run the farm and community center, because I could tell that they make a great positive impact on the Detroit community,” said DiPietro. “The people we met in Detroit were so kind, hard-working and dedicated to improving the community.”

Bethany Brun, coordinator of Service Learning, led the trip.

In another, very different experience, 20 members of the Mercyhurst community made their way to Monroe, North Carolina, to build a house.

At the start of the trip, only the foundation of the house had been laid. At the end of their four days, the outside of the house was up and ready to be shingled, and the inside was ready for more work. Students put plywood around the exterior of the house, built tresses for the ceiling and finished the house off by putting on the roof.

On their day off, students went to Charlotte for a NBA game.

“I learned how amazing it feels to give back to the community, how to really rely on other people and work as a team and that this work is not hard work, but rather it is fun and enjoyable work,” Sarah Brennan, senior Public Health major, said.

Brennan wishes she had started going on Habitat for Humanity trips sooner.

Students slept in a Habitat for Humanity Restore. Restores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories and building materials. There was a small loft where mattresses were laid out for the students.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience,” said Juliet Hilburn, senior History major. “We didn’t just build a house, we built a home where a family will make cherished memories for many years to come.”

The group was led by Jeremy Hewitt, graphic designer and print manager, and Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry.