Fashion professor reaches out to urban youth

Urban University, an Erie City Mission program created by RoseMarie Lackie, has come to Mercyhurst.

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Wayne Middle School will come on campus every Wednesday for an 8-week semester schedule. Each semester has different classes for the students to experience, according to Erie City Mission’s website.

However, the first class being taught at Mercyhurst is Abbey Mollo’s Fashion Merchandising class. Mollo, a Fashion Merchandising instructor at Mercyhurst, has volunteered her time to teach these students about fashion merchandising and how to make clothes.

“Each class only has 10 students in it so that lends itself to a lot of hands-on activity and the ratio is two students for every one teacher, which is really good,” Mollo said.

Each semester, they try to change the courses and theme to keep the lessons new and exciting. This semester’s theme is Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

“We thought it was perfect to bring kids to a college campus because of this theme. Most of these kids would not have thought about going to college but having them here and seeing this beautiful campus the whole college environment,” Mollo said.

The goal of the lessons is not just to encourage these students to go to college, but to mold them into more successful and confident individuals.

“The whole idea is to build leaders in this community. These kids get a chance to participate in something that otherwise they would not have learned before,” Mollo said.

While the program is faith-based because of the Erie City Mission, it is organized in a way that does not directly speak about religion. The classes use some ideas from faith practices, but keep it relevant to the lessons.

“Where I put my faith-based approach in is looking at your body from an analytical standpoint. At 13 years old, you are so critical of yourself. That’s such a tough time and it’s just really important to get the message across is that no matter your skin color, your eye color, your face shape-you’re perfect in God’s eyes because that is what he wanted you to have,” Mollo said.

While she has an agenda of what she wants the students to get from the experience, the students had ideas of their own as well.

“I came into the class with a little list of things I wanted to do, here’s a list of things I wanted to discuss. It wasn’t until I met them that I knew what they actually wanted to do,” Mollo said.

“I spent the first day talking about personality types. The second half of the day, I gave them sheets of paper with designs on it and had them follow the line on the sewing machine and they loved it. If they are on a machine, they are happy.”

Mollo is very optimistic about the future of her class and being able to reach the kids.

“Every single one of them I asked at the end of the first day to raise their hands if they were more excited to sew than you ever were before and every single hand was raised,” she said.