Mercyhurst Magazine Summer 2015

We are... Ambassadors of Service By Colin Hurley ‘13 Each year, a few Mercyhurst graduates take a leap of faith and plunge into a year or more of intense service to the community and world. They detour from their paths toward lucrative careers, instead choosing to live in intentional poverty and marginalization – but they often fnd incredible gems of wisdom and personal transformation along the way. It’s a natural choice for some graduates, who have immersed themselves in Mercyhurst’s mission of service to others throughout their years on campus. Encouraged by faculty members as well as by the service-learning program (which marked its 20th anniversary last year), they feel called to explore their gifts and passions further while helping to improve our world. Graduates can choose from hundreds of full-time service programs that have developed since the 1960s, including the Peace Corps, VISTA and many faith-based volunteer corps. A few recent (and soon-to-be) ‘Hurst alumni were willing to share the stories of their adventures as “Ambassadors of Service.”

“I think that the call from the Sisters of Mercy to act for social justice is one that I will always carry with me.” – Zach Pekor ‘09 Karl Gustafson ‘13 Karl Gustafson, who earned his master’s degree in applied intelligence in 2013, chose the Peace Corps after deciding that life behind a corporate desk wasn’t right for him. He spent two years in China, teaching university oral English classes in the region outside Chengdu, where he impacted his students in many ways. He secured grants to build an English language library, and participated with his students in the International World Map Project. Started in 1988 by an earlier Peace Corps volunteer, the project encourages interest in geography by helping students paint brightly colored world maps directly on classroom walls. He also works closely with the university radio station and has been interviewed many times about American cultural topics. Karl started an American flm club that screens movies outdoors, choosing lesser-known flms that accurately portray American life. He enjoys the freedom he has in his classroom, adding, “I don’t know if I’ll ever have this much control over my own work ever again.” His intel training does come in handy, as he attacks problems more deliberately now and builds his lectures as he once constructed presentations for briefngs. “Also I think Mercyhurst made me more durable,” he says. “Nothing gets to me now.” Karl fnished his Peace Corps assignment at the end of June and headed of for a solo trek through Southeast Asia before returning to America.

Lisa Sirois ‘14 History major Lisa Sirois joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after her 2014 graduation. She worked as an outreach caseworker with Christian Senior Service - Meals on Wheels in San Antonio, Texas, and lived in a community of six volunteers who worked at nonprofts throughout the city. “Together we encouraged each other to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zones by exploring the four values of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC): simple living, social justice, community and spirituality,” she says. Lisa says her JVC experience allowed her to continue the growth that started at Mercyhurst. “Without the experiences and relationships I formed at Mercyhurst, I would not have found the understanding and passion for human dignity in all persons that I have today. JVC gives me the opportunity to serve and be in communion with those individuals who have been cast out by society and who deserve to be valued regardless of life circumstance.” She says her year with JVC – besides allowing her to serve others – provided an opportunity to solidify her career goals and to refect on where she has been and where she is going. She’ll continue her service journey next year with JVC Northwest, working with homeless and underserved populations at the Poverello Center in Missoula, Montana.


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