Service learning makes a difference

Amber Matha, Opinion editor

​Service is an integral part of any Mercy driven education.  So it is no wonder that students have to do some sort of service learning during their time here at Mercyhurst.

As a student in the Honors Program, I have to log 50 service hours by the time I graduate next spring.  My freshman year, I was able to log a whopping 40 hours.  I determined that this year was the year that I was going to get my last 10 hours.  The question remained, how was I to do it?

In high school, I participated in Academic Decathlon, and at the local level it is called Academic Sports League (ASL).  ASL was fun because it was a competition that required me to study material and use that knowledge to do well on tests.

When I heard that the middle schoolers at my mom’s school were studying for their ASL competition, I knew I had found my service opportunity.

During my time with the kids I helped sixth, seventh and eighth graders learn subjects like algebra, trigonometry, chemistry and nuclear chemistry.

These subjects, especially the chemistry, were not only well above the level of most of the eighth graders, but were also some that I did not see until college.

The day of the competition came and I arrived to the public event with a knot in my stomach.  I hoped that I had helped the students in a way that they remembered the material.

I wanted all nine of the students on the team to get at least one medal each.  The coach, a teacher at the middle school, was nervous about the strength of his team.  Two of the participants had been recruited at the last minute so might not have had studied as much as their teammates.

At an ASL competition there is an event called the Superquiz Relay, which is a quiz bowl-like competition where three sets of three students from each team answer 10 multiple choice questions, for a total of 30 questions.  Each question must be answered in 10 seconds after it is read.

Sitting in the audience I tried my hand at answering their questions on a sheet of paper. Woodrow Wilson Middle School not only got first place in this part of the competition with a score of 20, but also beat my individual score of 19.

The most rewarding experience for me was during the awards ceremony.

There was one seventh grader who got a silver medal in math, and three students got gold medals in science.  The team scored second place overall, to the shock of the coach of the team and myself.

Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces when their names were called was something that I will remember for a long time.

This was a team that had doubted their abilities, a team that had signed themselves off because they thought they weren’t smart enough to win.

When they won second place, I saw a spark in their eyes that had not been there before.  It is a motivation to go for the gold next year and sweep the whole competition.

I told this story because I believe that every student at Mercyhurst should participate in some form of service learning.

We all have to do the Day of Service as freshmen, but I think it is even more important to do volunteer work for fun.

When you do something because you want to, and you don’t feel forced to do it, that is when the real impacts of the work are felt.   That is when you know you have done some good.