Congratulations to Mercyhurst’s chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society—Alpha Phi Sigma—for receiving a National Advocacy Grant in recognition of their outstanding community engagement.
For the first time, the National Alpha Phi Sigma headquarters, located at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, awarded this grant to specific chapters. The organization recognized 10 chapters who engage with an organization in their community that provides a service helping adults and juveniles in the Criminal Justice System.
Associate professor of Criminal Justice and APS advisor, Maria Garase, Ph.D., applied for this grant on behalf of the society’s strong relationship with Climate Changers, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that provides support services for individuals following incarcerations.
“Climate Changers, Inc. offers transitioning clients an umbrella of programming starting with a twelve-week program in the correctional facility to prepare inmates to re-enter society as productive citizens, a six to 12 month Intensive Residential/Non-Residential component and an aftercare component,” Garase said. “This combination of evidence-based programming equips re-entrants with the tools needed to successfully reintegrate into society.”
The group has had the opportunity to work closely with this organization over the past two years.
Most recently, Alpha Phi Sigma headed a campus-wide winter clothing and pantry item drive for the organization, collaborating with both the Criminal Justice Association and the Student Alliance for Prison Reform.
“Simple things like a clothing drive or food drive are what makes this community engagement so unique,” Alpha Phi Sigma president Amelia Kanonczyk said. “We do not have to have a big party or extravagant event to show this program that we are there for them. It does not matter how big or small the engagement is with an organization/person/school, it just matters that there is one.”
Items collected ranged from jackets and coats to shoes and non-perishable food items. Upon dropping the items off, students were given the opportunity to tour the facility and many of the services offered to re-entrants.
“I think the interaction with Climate Changers, Inc. has shown students that they have the power to help others in impactful ways,” Garase said. “The activities also reinforce what they are learning in class about the challenges re-entrants face.”
Kanonczyk shares similar sentiments.
“For me, it teaches me that Climate Changers works well with an organization like ours, that’s why we always go back,” Kanonczyk said.
Though the $250 was awarded to the Mercyhurst chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, all of this money will be donated to Climate Changers, Inc. The funds were not restricted, therefore the organization will be able to use the money however they best see fit.