Sixteen Mercer students traded their vacation time for volunteer time this week. The fourth annual Spring Break for Service from MerServe, the student-led service leadership board for the Macon campus, kicked off Sunday afternoon and wrapped up at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The program is open to any undergraduate student, although the majority of this year’s participants were freshmen and sophomores, said Lauren Shinholster, coordinator of community engagement for Mercer.
“Our students think globally; however, it’s important that we do not lose sight of the needs in our own back yards. Changing the world starts here – right in Macon,” Shinhoster said.
“Spring Break for Service shines a light on Macon’s needs and connects students to organizations that are already doing the work to improve the quality of life in our city. Spring Break for Service should be viewed as a launching pad for the next great idea, program or research project that serves a city that gives so much to us.”
Sophomores Mary-Angel Ekezie and Sonora White, both MerServe board members, were the leaders and organizers of the 2019 Spring Break for Service, which was themed around “a look into the needs of the children in Macon.”
Shinholster said the students involved have “shown a heart for service throughout their time at Mercer.” While they do not receive course credit for this volunteer work, they can count it toward fulfilling service requirements for their majors.
“The main goal is just to help those participating become more aware of the needs in the area, not just in Macon but around the world,” said Ezekie, a neuroscience major.
The participants spent time in classrooms and made bulletin boards with inspirational quotes at Ballard Hudson Middle School; toured the Methodist Home and enjoyed dinner and a movie with the children there; and prepared and served breakfast for families at the Ronald McDonald House. They also worked with Project Linus to make blankets for children, filled backpacks with food for needy children for the Backpack Buddies program, and participated in team-building activities.
“I think everybody in our group is really engaged and interested in learning more about getting involved in the community,” said White, an international business major. “I want to be able to help Mercer students see what they can do to help, because there are kids all over the world who are in bad situations and who need additional resources.”
When children don’t have access to the vital resources they need, it’s harder for them to become successful in life, Ezekie said. That’s why it’s so important for the community to offer as much assistance as possible, and for college students to play a part in helping.