Mercyhurst University was founded in 1926 by the Sisters of Mercy. To this day, the school continues to preach the core values that heavily emphasize service within the community and out in the world. Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement, and Bethany Woods, assistant director, are focused on helping students become more involved in volunteer-ing either on-campus or within the Erie community. “Our Mission in conjunction with our Carpe Diem motto implies we seize every opportunity to think about and support others, and I think this week alone is a great testament to the creativity, the passion and the commitment to doing just that in the name of service to the community,” Hurley said, in relation to Mercy Week and the Get Out the Vote effort on campus.
Due to the global pandemic, volunteering this year will look a little different. As a result, there are fewer opportunities to go out into the community and volunteer in person. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to volunteer through the online community. Some examples of remote volunteering include virtual visits with older adults at senior resident facilities, making cards for homeless shelters to put on their “walls of encouragement,” and coordinating with local organizations to put together hygiene packets. These opportunities can keep students engaged with those beyond our Mercyhurst gates. Last week’s main service opportunity was the table to help students register to vote if they were not already registered. Deadlines to vote are fast approaching in most states. Students were given the opportunity to sign up for a time slot to go to a booth on campus and assist other students with registering.
Mercyhurst also requires that all students do volunteer work through a class that focuses on service, named BTG. BTG, or Be-yond the Gates, is a class that all students must take in their time here. BTG connects students with a service project that the student is interested in. Each student engages with that service project throughout the semester and reflects on what they have learned while beyond the gates of Mercyhurst.
Some volunteer opportunities can be major-specific, which helps the students truly determine if they want to continue with this major or explore another field. Other BTG experiences are connected to Study Abroad. Currently, the opportunities to volunteer for Beyond the Gates off-campus are slim; thus, students will do their service work when they can do so safely and when the community needs them the most. For students currently enrolled, they can take the class and complete their service online. “Taking advantage of these virtual volunteering opportunities is important to living out the Mercy mission and investing in your community even if you cannot physically be present to serve,” Woods said.
If interested, students can currently find volunteer opportunities on the Community Engagement page located on the HUB.“What MU is doing now is embracing the changes regarding safety during a pandemic, and not giving up, but rather we are leaning into the moment and seeing where are the needs of today and what can we still be doing in the meantime,” said Hurley. The office is looking forward to planning on having volunteer opportunities in-person again when the time is right.