Sunday, December 16, 2012

'Tis the Season at Mercyhurst

These few weeks leading up to break seem to be some of the hardest for students to get through. It is the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas that always seems to get lost in the anticipation of the holidays and the beginning of a new term of school work. I myself have filled it with some busy annual events at Mercyhurst that I'd love to share!!

Christgiving is the Ambassador Club event that happens each year between Christmas and Thanksgiving, hence the name. The club always hosts various social functions for our whole group to get together, but this is always the one of my favorite. We have great food and company, not to mention it is one of the first of many seasonal parties to start off the holiday cheer. This year I got to enjoy spending it with many of my Ambassador pledge members who are mid-way through their process of becoming Ambassadors!

This year's pledge class with the Pledge Chairs and myself inside our Student Union!
Another event that I take pride in that happens on campus to involved multiple students and organizations is the annual tree-lighting ceremony hosted by Student Government. As always we have the 12 days of Christmas that leads up to this event, where MSG hands out free gifts to students across campus. Some of the gifts can be as little as a new pair of gloves or some chap-stick. This year I received a notebook and pens, as well as a new MSG travel mug with cocoa. I can never turn down some new, free things!

This event is also paired with a tree decoration competition in the Student Union between various clubs and organizations across the University. The Ambassador club's tree was decked out in green. The History club made their Christmas tree look like Abraham Lincoln. There was a pile of canned goods for a food drive under the Circle K tree, and the Biology Honors Club was full of tinsel DNA that wrapped around it! In all honesty the seasonal-spirit has caught on to Mercyhurst and moods seem to be high. Which is perfect for the giving season!

My last and favorite event that happens each year is very significant to me! In the past years campus has hosted an event called Christmas on Campus, which has now transitioned to our Miracle on 38th Street. It is an annual event that occurs in which Mercyhurst opens up our facilities to local community after-school sites, and allows for various students from Erie neighborhoods to come celebrate the holidays. Each year these students are brought on campus from their various sites to participate in the event hosted by many offices at Mercyhurst. 

This year the event was sponsored and hosted by the Campus Involvement Center, Campus Ministry, the Office of Service-Learning, the Multicultural Center, Parkhurst Dining Services, and many student clubs and organizations. There were nearly 50 students from the International House of Mercy, Erie Boys and Girls Club, the MLK Center, and the JFK Center. Our youngest visitor was just 5 years old and the eldest was just 11. I enjoy that they come onto campus because they then have an opportunity to be paired with a "buddy" student from Mercyhurst who then assists them for the afternoon during the events.

One of the event highlights is for retired English professor, Barry McAndrew to return to Mercyhurst and read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The children are all too excited and can barely sit with all the anticipation for his animated storytelling. 

I have participated in this event every year so far at Mercyhurst, and nothing brings me more joy than seeing these students interact with Santa. My favorite thing about our Santa visit is that each child has an opportunity to get a gift. For some of the children, this gift makes their whole life light up. I heard numerous kids saying "This is just what I wanted!!". Nothing beats their smiles and "thank yous" to Santa!

L-R: Brian Lombardo (MSG Vice President), myself, Mrs. Clause, Santa, and Emily Carrier (MSG Senior Senator) helping hand out presents to the children during Miracle on 38th Street event.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Photos of Our Week

This week was such a blessing leaving each of us with fine memories of New Orleans, our experiences here, and about 18 new friends!

Our crew overlooking Lake Pontchartrain

Breakfast with the whole crew, made by the boys

The girls all together in Audubon Park

The Saint Charles Line Streetcars

Some new houses funded by Brad Pitt in the Lower Ninth Ward

Our view of the Po-boy festival on Sunday

Jackson Square and the local artists in the French Quarter

Last night!

Hello Everyone!

Greetings from our last night in NOLA!  Today offered the group many opportunities: time to wrap up our unfinished products, look back on our progress from last year, learn about the physics of levees,  cement our status as a team of 19 students who came together over the past 5 days, and to most importantly reflect on the work we've accomplished during our time here.

It was truly a great day!  The group at Elysian Fields got a surprise visit from Miss Mary, the homeowner who we are doing repairs for.  It was a wonderful opportunity and we were very blessed to meet her and here her story.  She is a very special lady who worked incredibly hard to get back into her house, and we can't wait for it to happen!  Hopefully by Christmas or soon after?  It gave each of us the chance to connect and hear first-hand the very personal and often emotional stories from a homeowner who experienced Katrina and its devastating aftermath.  Below is a picture of my group with Miss Mary!

We also wrapped up some loose-ends at the house.  The upstairs hardwood floor that the team had been installing for the past 5 days got almost to the point of completion!  Also, the caulking and painting on both the interior and exterior were finished and a ton of window-scraping was officially over!  All the jobs will hopefully be huge time-savers for Project Homecoming, so they can focus on other essential jobs to get Miss Mary back home faster.

The day ended with a great group dinner where each of us explained our highs and lows from the day and the week.  The group loved getting to know each other better and also learning a ton of new skills during the trip.  We also got a great mini-lesson from our physics professor Dyan, who took time and a demonstration to explain why and how the levees were built and ultimately failed.  It was so fascinating!

It was a truly incredible week, and one that I am blessed to have done twice now.  I'm sad I won't be back with the group next year but I know I will always cherish the memories and connections I made here. Well that's it for now, we'll get back to you once we're home!

Much love!
Brian L. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mission and Adventure

Hi everyone!
      Yesterday, we worked with the New Orleans Mission. We loaded up the vans with bagged lunches, vitamin water, applesauce, and water bottles and went out to do a "mobile food drive." Volunteers and directors from the city mission came with us and brought our vans to certain streets downtown that unfortunately had several homeless people residing there. As a team, we got out of our vans, prayed for the people around us, and went out and served these struggling residents. We literally walked up to homeless men and women and gave them food and water.
      The neat thing about this experience was the fact that it was mobile. It would have been much different if we simply set up a station on the street and the people came to us. However, we went to them, saw how and where they were living, and were able to bring a smile to their faces. These people that are struggling to live off the streets were so grateful for our kindness and made it known that we were helping them. There is nothing more real than this.

    This was an experience that our team will never forget. Words simply cannot describe what an incredible feeling we had after making a small difference in their lives. People need to realize that life is truly a blessing and we must be thankful for everything we have. Our eyes were open to a whole new world and environment that only people who see it first-hand can understand. This mobile mission was such a touching experience and one our NOLA 2012 team will always cherish.
   Later in the day, we went to the French Quarter and grabbed some dinner. Afterwards, our group was able to split up and explore the different aspects of the French Quarter, such as the famous Bourbon Street. There were many creole-creation foods that were handed out to show the influence of the French culture on the city of New Orleans. We bought souvenirs and tried the classic beignets at the historical Cafe du Monde. We got to experience the authentic jazz music, street performers, and magicians while walking downtown. Lastly, the famous mardi gra beads were given out! It was overall a very fun and eye-opening experience where we learned about a very unique, but intriguing culture.

Only two more days left!!

Take care,
Amber, Lauren, and Carli :)    

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eye-Opening Service Sites

My name is Amber Penna and I am a Sportsmedicine Junior at the Hurst. Today, we were split up into two groups and sent to two different sites. My site was in the Lower Ninth Ward on Elysian Drive. The house is a shotgun style and was damaged from the hurricane. We completed many tasks today, including cleaning out various rooms, priming all the walls, and then adding a coat of beige paint. After this was completed, a few volunteers laid the upstairs rooms with black tarp so that flooring could be put in. Myself and two others, Brian and Joe, started laying down bamboo wood slates to form the floor. This was so much fun because none of us have ever done this type of work before and it was very easy to see progress being made!
Here is a picture of the outside of the house my group worked on today. 

The work day went by pretty quickly, but we had an awesome day and really could see all the progress we made and how productive we were! We are very excited to go back to the house tomorrow and meet the homeowner Ms. Mary, who was treated wrongly by her original contractors. Therefore, Project Homecoming took over and is hoping to have her home finished by the end of this year. The other group went to a site on Chatham Drive, where they painted and made a banister for the front porch. They as well enjoyed their day and the beautiful weather outside!

For dinner, we had salad and the famous New Orleans dish, Jambalaya, which is composed of rice, spices, seafood, chicken, and sausage. It was absolutely delicious! The dinner was hosted by Project Homecoming and we met several women who had moved down to New Jersey a few years ago to help with Katrina Relief, and we also met the first homeowner of a Project Homecoming house.  

Dinner was so good, but after a long day of work, everyone was very exhausted! Therefore, we headed back home. Here us a picture of my group who got so much work done today!!!

Hope all is well!!
God Bless,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Back in the Big Easy

Day One:

A group shot of everyone prior to leaving Mercyhurst on Wednesday morning!

Here we are on day one in New Orleans! We had a long day of traveling, after finishing finals and Fall term at the Hurst, but we have arrived! Our group is composed of 16 students and 3 chaperones; students ranging from freshmen to seniors. This year marks the seventh year since the events of Hurricane Katrina and Mercyhurst's sixth year volunteering in some way in New Orleans.

We have already seen such a positive outpouring of character and appreciation from some of the people in New Orleans. There were multiple people on the planes that thanked us for being here and contributing in our own way.

We had a group dinner at the Redeemer mission house that we are staying at. After traveling, a large group dinner of pizza and conversation was just what we needed. Over dinner we chatted about our expectations and this week's schedule of events. I am most excited about the opportunity to re-experience New Orleans through a new project! We'll update you all on how the first day on the job goes tomorrow, but its an early morning! We're working on finishing up some houses through Project Homecoming and spending the evening at a welcoming dinner! We'll let you know how it goes!!

Send us your prayers and support! 

God bless,

Monday, November 12, 2012

Finals and the Final Countdown

There are many benefits to being a Mercyhurst student in the future, and the best one that I can think of right now is the switch over to a semester system! Historically Mercyhurst has featured a 10-week trimester system, but there is going to be a calendar change in the fall of 2013 to implement 14-week semesters with a January term in-between. As a science major, the J-term system is going to be incredibly beneficial. In my opinion, lengthening to semesters won't make our classes so rushed!! Which would be really beneficial right now because its finals week

the plan for this week

So I am already one final down and two more to go before New Orleans and the service trip of a lifetime (for the second time of course!!!)

For some reason I am much more excited for NOLA 2012. I know I had so much fun last year and I think that the anticipation to do good for others and enjoy myself is what is fueling my finals right now. I am so looking forward to seeing familiar places and exploring a little more of the beautiful city!

For those of you who haven't read my previous posts about New Orleans, Mercyhurst always does a few immersion trips throughout the year through rebuilds in New Orleans over Thanksgiving break and Habitat for Humanity over spring break. It is literally an awesome way for students to spend their extra week at home doing a little extra something for others!!

Some of last year's NOLA group on the Mississippi River

That's all for now!! Stay tuned on updates after finals from New Orleans!