Mercyhurst Magazine Summer 2015

“While I couldn’t recite the core values of the top of my head, the message from them still resonates and I defnitely carry with me the idea that we are ambassadors of service.” – Alicia Cagle ‘13

Alumni Jef Cagle ‘07 (far left) and Colleen Lanigan-Hordych ‘07 (next to him) with fellow team members

Jef Cagle ‘07 Jef Cagle says he’s always had a personal passion to make the world a better place. And he credits Mercy sisters Michele Schroeck and Geri Rosinski for showing him that he didn’t need to rush through life for the sake of success, that he could spend a year positively afecting the world and still one day return to his studies. Assigned to work in Nashville, one of his duties was teaching a GED math class to students who had been out of school for years. He recalls, “They had to learn their multiplication tables, pretty standard stuf that I have taken for granted since learning it in 3rd grade. We started simple: anything times zero is zero, any number times one is that original number. Then, we skipped to 9. My students FLIPPED! I wrote all the multiples of 9 in the table on the chalkboard and then I told them to look reallllllllly close at the numbers “I asked them a simple question: when you multiply any number 1-9 by 9, what can you do to check that your answer is right? I sat back and just had them look at their tables…and slowly….very slowly….the lights started to pop on in a few brains…until Nancy blurted out: if you add the numbers they equal 9. BOOM! 9x6=54…add 5 and 4 and you get 9!!! They went absolutely CRAAAAAAZY with excitement! They couldn’t believe it! Honestly, it was one of the coolest moments ever!” After an AmeriCorps VISTA year (2007-2008) working on an anti-bullying campaign with PENNCREST School District, Jef earned a Master of Theological Studies degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and then opted for a second year of service as an AmeriCorps State Volunteer, working with inner-city youth and adults in Nashville. Then, coming full circle, he came back to Pennsylvania and taught at Mercyhurst as an adjunct professor. Jef recently moved to Washington, D.C., with his fancée, Jennifer, and is again teaching GED classes, this time at Sasha Bruce Youthwork. He hopes to start work on a doctorate soon. “I realize just how lucky I was to go to a school like Mercyhurst that values the liberal arts tradition and taught me the value of social justice,” he says. “I really appreciate all the service learning opportunities I had when I was a student and hope that students at Mercyhurst today also value the ability to serve the Erie community.”

Nicole Zeak ‘12 For Nicole Zeak, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh was a natural choice when she decided to devote a year to service. When she was growing up, her father was the construction foreman for the organization, and her older sister did a graduate internship there. As a National Direct Service member with AmeriCorps, she worked in community relations for the nonproft, both working directly with families and fostering community relationships to support Habitat’s mission. She dedicated three new homes for deserving Pittsburgh families, worked on countless home repair projects, and even traveled to Wisconsin to help with a build. “I also got to work alongside Andrew McCutcheon, Pittsburgh Habitat’s spokesperson, so that wasn’t too bad either!” she says. Nicole, a social work major, says she gained a year of memorable and quality experience, while also learning a lot about herself and the service industry in Pittsburgh. Flash forward two years and she’s now the family assistance coordinator at South Hills Interfaith Ministries, running basic needs programs that serve more than 400 families each month, including two large food pantries, a clothing room and utility assistance. “Serving that year with AmeriCorps truly changed my life and helped me start my career.”

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