Eighteen Mercyhurst students spent their Spring Break in John’s Island, SC, to help build houses for those in need. Every year, several students join the Habitat for Humanity program, even though they don’t know what they are going to be working on until they get there. In the past, the group has built a house from the foundation up, completed roofing, painted or tiled houses and completed demolition projects.
This year, the group of Laker volunteers worked on finishing three houses. Other volunteers had already done the basic building of the houses, giving Mercyhurst students the tasks of adding baseboards, doors, blinds, doorknobs, light fixtures, cabinets, etc.
They were also required to work on the painting and staining of the houses. The group had a rough time on the third day of its trip when a torrential rain prevented them from working in the house. Instead, they went to the Habitat barn and worked on constructing the wooden frame of two other houses that will be built soon. Junior Fashion Merchandising major Katy Vaccariello points out that, for her, the hardest part of the process are the skills that they learn throughout every trip.
“We are placed in a situation very new that is also impacting a family in the future,” Vaccariello said. “You have the pressure of properly executing the work needed.”
The students are not always working though. They also get to enjoy a day off to go explore the area where they are staying. Students keep coming back year after year, ready to repeat the experience. Junior Intelligence Studies and Political Science major Marina Delmoro has been a part of the club since freshman year. She has been a part of the trips to Monroe, North Carolina and Birmingham, Alabama, and regardless she still learns a new set of skills every year.
“The most rewarding part of this trip is seeing the look on the homeowners faces when they pull up and see volunteers helping build their house,” Delmoro said.
For Vaccariello, this was the second Habitat for Humanity trip that she took part in. She first chose to participate because of the opportunity to travel across the country and see a new place, while also being able to help people in need.
“We have completed so many challenging yet rewarding goals,” Vaccariello said. “It was an extremely fulfilling spring break.”
Individuals involved with the trip get to experience the core values that Mercyhurst represents outside of the classroom in a real-world situation. Students are able to experience being ambassadors of service and making a change in someone’s life firsthand. Students who have been a part of this trip for years highly recommend all students to join the group and experience a week with Habitat for Humanity.
“I think students should go on the trip at least once to gain experience and see what Habitat is all about,” Delmoro said.
For more information on Habitat for Humanity you can contact Jeremy Hewitt. As well as the Habitat for Humanity trip, other offices organized events for students over break. The AIM Program traveled to Washington D.C., where staff and students advocated for the rights of those with autism. Students had meetings with Congressman Mike Kelly, Senator Bob Casey, the Department of Labor, Autism Speaks, Autism Society and the Ridge Policy Group.
These meetings were focused on advocating for vocational resources and the AIM program. Those on the trip also met with representatives from The MITRE Corporation and Pricewaterhouse Cooper.
“We are excited that our collaborations and hard work have given students the ability to network, share their voice and advocate for autism vocational resources,” Bradley McGarry, AIM Program director, said.“They have done an incredible job representing Mercyhurst and the AIM Program.”
“I actually had a very productive time,” said Ben VanHook, a junior History major. “I may just have won an interview to intern in Washington DC for two senators.”
The office of Community Engagement also used the break for the benefit of a particular cause. Students Kymberly Henry, Cailin Jaspers, Maya Poletto and Abigail Vietmeier traveled to Cincinnati with Bethany Woods, assistant director of community engagement.
The group stayed with the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Volunteer Corps members as they volunteered throughout the city for five days.
Their service included helping organizations like La Soupe, which rescues otherwise wasted produce to create meals for food-insecure families. They also assisted Earth Connection, ImagoEarth and the Free Store Food Bank. The focus of the trip was following one of Mercyhurst’s core values in being globally responsible,” senior, business major, Abigiail Vietmeier said. “We volunteered with organizations that give food to those in need, grow food for those in need and teach the community members how to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. It was very fulfilling to see how much of an impact our group made in just a five day trip. I had a fantastic experience and would recommend the trip to anyone.”
Finally, a group of 20 Mercyhurst students jetted off to Valladolid, Mexico, on a medical mission trip through Chosen International.
The purpose was to serve children and the sick. Ten Physician Assistant students and 10 undergraduate science students worked alongside. Mexican nursing students in the Valladolid villages to assess the health of the inhabitants and to shadow them in the operating room.
“Students traveled to schools to teach Mayan adolescents oral hygiene and basic handwashing skills during the Coronavirus outbreak,” said junior Biology major Amanda Brodie. “The medical mission trip is held yearly through Mercyhurst and is a great opportunity for anyone pursuing a path in medicine to give back to the world community.”