The new academic year had barely started when Mount Saint Mary’s University president issued an invitation to serve unlike any from the past as this year the event would be held virtually. The remote aspect of the event did little to dampen people’s enthusiasm. “One thing that really stood out for me was that I experienced more connection with the virtual experience than I have had on-ground,” says Andrée Leighton, assistant professor and director of the Center for Academic Innovation and Creativity. “The feeling of caring and being together was palpable, and it set a tone for a beautiful day. I am very thankful.”
Indeed, nearly 70 students, faculty and staff answered the call on a Saturday morning to participate in several hours of service or discussion about ways to affect changes within one’s community. Following a welcome by Ann McElaney-Johnson, PhD, president, and a prayer by Linda McMurdock, vice president of student affairs, participants dispersed to one of four breakouts rooms of their choosing.
“The energy and engagement were inspiring in the workshop we facilitated on writing letters to our congressional representatives,” says Gaile Krause ’13 MA, assistant director of Campus Ministry. “Our voices can be heard even though we aren’t seeing people in person, and we can speak in solidarity for those in need here and throughout the world. Students got to be part of this event with other young adults who are passionate about justice and service. We follow in the footsteps of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who are inspired by the Gospel value of caring for our neighbors.”
Gianne Gonzalez ’22, was encouraged to attend this event by Karla Guzman, her colleague at the Women's Leadership & Student Engagement Office. Gonzalez initially started in the meeting room on Civic Engagement, led by Chinako Belanger, interim director of the Women’s Leadership program.
“The civic engagement meeting teaches students and faculty how to be actively engaged in government, regardless of if there is an election or not,” she says. “Students learn how to call or email their local elected officials to address important issues such as homelessness, food distribution and even COVID. Ultimately, it shows Mount students that they can be active in addressing present-day issues to their local governments, that they have the power to make a change.”
One breakout room was dedicated to spring cleaning. Los Angeles-based participants were encouraged to clean out their closets and pantries or assemble personal care items and hygiene kits to donate items to the Los Angeles Mission or St. Vincent de Paul.
Danielle Rose Steele ‘08, former Alumnae Board member and regional ambassador for Arizona, said that she and her baby spent some time in the spring cleaning group first, which got her motivated to pack up some clothes and baby gear, before moving to the letter writing group to write to the sisters at the Carondelet Center.
“Once I decided what stationary to use -- some cards made of a photo I took at Havasu Falls near the Grand Canyon — it was pretty easy to share my experience hiking,” says Steele. “I hope it gives the sisters a brief window into another world for a bit. The day gave me a few moments to connect with others, for which I'm grateful!” Participants could also write to residents at Jasmine Terrace or Hamilton Home, both assisted living facilities, or to hospice patients via Vitas Healthcare.
This was Gonzalez’ first time attending this event, but it may not be her last. “I could see how everyone was interested in wanting to help others,” she says. “The President's Invitation to Serve also radiated the Mount's mission statement of gaining knowledge to better themselves, the environment, and the world.”