Mercyhurst students nominated for service awards

Two Mercyhurst students are nominated for the Recognizing Achieving Volunteers in Erie (RAVE) awards by the Junior League of Erie.

Michelle Ahrens and Stefani Baughman will represent Mercyhurst in the first-ever young adult category of the annual award. The winners will be awarded in a RAVE awards dinner on April 28. Winners of the award will receive a $1,000 grant to distribute to the nonprofit of his/her choice.

The awards are sponsored by Get Connected Erie and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Of the 30 nominees across three separate categories, only one winner is chosen per category.

These students are chosen for their dedication to long-term service in the Erie community.

“The students chosen for the award aren’t surprises,” said Director of Community Engagement Colin Hurley.

Hurley said that he plans to use these students’ nominations to encourage a more holistic approach to service learning and volunteerism.

“We want to encourage volunteerism not as a merely a way to spend four years at Mercyhurst or to build resumes, but to go beyond the gates of our classrooms,” said Hurley. “The RAVE awards were one opportunity of many to highlight great students doing great things.”
Hurley said that through students like those nominated, Mercyhurst can realize its full potential by not just drawing from Erie, but also by adding to it.

“Serving is a lifelong journey. You don’t do it in one soup kitchen visit. These excellent student nominees, they don’t do it necessarily to count hours, but they do it because it’s part of them,” Hurley said.

Stefani Baughman, a senior Intelligence Studies and Political Science major was not expecting any type of nomination for her service work.

“I was really surprised. I didn’t know what the award was,” Baughman said.

Most of her community service opportunity was spent in volunteering posts such as the Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and the International Institute of Erie.

Baughman continues to stay involved in community service despite a busy schedule. “It’s difficult, but rewarding,” said Baughman.

Baughman has not yet decided what she will do in the future, but has said she is considering a year of service with AmeriCorps. “Bethany Brun and Colin Hurley were really instrumental why I’m so involved at Mercyhurst. They are both so passionate about service learning and students,” Baughman said.

Michelle Ahrens, a junior Social Work and Religious Studies double major, works heavily in community engagement. Ahrens is the University’s first House of Mercy Ambassador, where she lives and works at the House of Mercy with Sister Michelle Shroeck of the Sisters of Mercy.

Several evenings each week, Ahrens helps the sisters run an after-school program for local children. The experience is helping to prepare for a future career.

“I’m not quite sure what I want to do yet, but I would love to work with kids,” Ahrens said.

Ahrens credits her active community involvement with Mercyhurst’s staff and dedicated culture of community service.

“I wasn’t really big into volunteering until I came to Mercyhurst,” said Ahrens. “One of my biggest inspirations for all this was Bethany Brun, who was my rowing coach in high school. I saw how passionate she was with service learning and that got me interested in it.”

Ahrens plans to continue living and working at the House of Mercy into her senior year.

Brun, director of Service Learning, was an integral part of nominating Mercyhurst students for the RAVE awards. She said the nominees have done more than what was expected of them.

“Those students have gone above and beyond the call of service and their service resumes speak for themselves,” Brun said.