Service Fair brings post-graduate alternatives

Brent Clapper, Contributing writer

Students who are questioning what they want to do after graduation had a chance to explore service opportunities at the Post-Graduate Service Fair on Thursday Nov. 12, in the Student Union.

Twenty-five organizations, including AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and Mercy Corps were present to offer students opportunities for a year or more of service with their respective organizations. Formally known as the Year of Service Expo, this is the fourth year the Post-Graduate Service Fair has taken place.

“Last year, we decided to combine university resources,” said Bethany Brun, coordinator of service learning. “We currently have students from Gannon, Penn State Behrend and Mercyhurst who are all attending this fair.”

Brun explained that this was a collaborative effort to bring programs to our campuses as well as share information.

Additional agencies and organizations that were present at the Service Fair were L’Arche Erie, a faith based community where life is shared between individuals with and without intellectual disabilities. The Franciscan Mission Service out of Washington, D.C., and Habitat for Humanity were also included at the event.

“L’Arche Erie was actually the first United States community, which is pretty special,” said Kevin Forte, director of development for L’Arche Erie. “We have homes here in Erie where we do have adults with disabilities living with some of our large team members.”

Over the past four years, between 50-60 students have taken advantage of the Post-Graduate Service Fair. Brun estimated that this year’s turn out was over 100.

“It’s collaborative of Gannon, Penn State Behrend and Mercyhurst,” said Brun. “I believe a majority of them are going to be Mercyhurst students.

Chris Fox, assistant director of Civic Engagement at Penn State Behrend, believes the event is important for students regardless of whether they are new to college or ready to leave.

“I think it gives them a sense of how service can be applied in the professional world,” said Fox. “It’s an opportunity that they may not have even known about.”

Fox also stated that this one-year post-grad experience with an agency could potentially lead to a more long-term career with one of those respective agencies.

Freshman Anthropology and Archaeology major Sarah Kosiorek is getting an early start on the process and thinking about what she should be doing over the next four years.

“I would love to do something like this after I graduate,” said Kosiorek. “My parents are really involved in mission trips abroad and I love to travel.”

Junior Intelligence Studies major Tom Matheson agrees. To Matheson, the main message that comes from this fair is that students who take advantage of this one year of service are not just providing food, water or other basic necessities to those who do not have those means. They are also providing education.

“You don’t have to go out and get a job just like everybody else,” said Matheson. “You can go out and do something for others.”

The Post-Grad Service Fair ended with a dinner held in the Student Union. Brun is hopeful that this event will encourage students to learn more about what to do after graduation, as well as travelling somewhere that is not permanent.

“Maybe you want to pursue grad school afterwards but you’re not sure what you want to do,” said Brun.“This gives you the opportunity to kind of explore those interests and maybe fight poverty while you’re at it.”