March 3, 2010
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU students step up to help Saint Lucia
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - As the third daughter to attend college in her family, Kate Hepner, a Slippery Rock University education major from Bellevue, said the financial strain is ready to boil over. But she still wants to do her part to help those facing even greater difficulty.
"With all the hardship and cuts we've had to make financially - even doing the Cash for Clunkers program - I know I am still very blessed to have the things I have," she said of her family.
Hepner is part of an SRU student leadership group that leaves today for a goodwill spring break in Soufriere, Saint Lucia. Eighteen students and four SRU staff will deliver 3,000 pairs of shoes that were collected by Bishop Canevin High School and packaged by SRU students. Students will also head a leadership conference targeting high school students.
"It will be the first school-based leadership conference for an entire high school," said Alice Kaiser-Drobney, SRU assistant professor of professional studies and trip organizer. "The focus will be on teaching young people how to become leaders, and a big part of being a leader is serving."
SRU students and staff contributed to the shoe drive, which will benefit students at eight schools. SRU's Association of Residence Hall Students gave $2,000 for 195 pairs of black children's shoes, which many schools in Soufriere require, and 150 pair of flip-flops. Anthony Stoner in Central Receiving worked directly with a Saint Lucia shipping company and wrapped 3,700 pounds of shoes for pick up by the shipper.
The Saint Lucia Ministry of Tourism for the Caribbean island nation of 160,000 people will pay the shipping, Kaiser-Drobney said, and officials of the group plan to meet with the students. "Lots of people there only have one pair of shoes that they use to go to church or whatever," she said.
After researching the people of Saint Lucia and talking to a few residents over Skype, Hepner said she had to help. "Most people just assume that college students do not care about others, but I don't know anyone like that," she said. "There is not a day on this campus where I do not see community service or a need for it."
Hepner said some of the shoes include a surprise - greeting cards made by SRU students. "We decided to make cards sending well wishes to the island with the shoes and tucked the cards inside of the shoes," she said.
"I thought it was a great project right from the start," said David Machesney, a criminology major from Pittsburgh. "We as Americans often forget how fortunate we are when compared to other nations. This is just one way we can help someone else."
Machesney said he has only seen pictures of the country on the Internet and looks forward to meeting people and seeing the landscape, beaches included. At the leadership conference, Machesney said he would give a presentation about conflict resolution. Other SRU students will cover abstinence, public speaking, team building and applying to college.
"While on the island, some students will have the opportunities to help at a local soup kitchen," he said. "Some students will help at a pediatric clinic and a youth basketball camp.
While the schedule is "planned to the max," Machesney expects to do some sight seeing.
Students participating in the St. Lucia trip are: Nick Barcio, a business major from Erie; Cayla Catino, a nonprofit leadership major from Riegelsville; Andrew Bolla, a history major from Fairview; Brittany Donatelli, an art major from Harmony; Emily Hunter, a health and physical education major from Cassandaga, N.Y.; Sarah Browne, an English major from Cranberry; Hannah Glass, a psychology major from Slippery Rock; Marcie Johnson, a business management major from Pittsburgh; Benjamin Brunetta, an education major from Indiana; Courtney Goodman, an exercise and rehabilitative sciences major from Reading; Charles Kennedy, a social work major from New Castle; Carlye Slaughter, a dance major from Sharpsville; Brandon Maharaj, an exercise and rehabilitative sciences major from Indiana; Hannah Whittaker, a secondary education major from Pittsburgh; Brazitte Poole, a philosophy major from Pittsburgh; and Matt Pugh, a music education major from Butler.
Traveling with the students are Kaiser-Drobny; Kateeka Harris, director of judicial programs; Brad Kovaleski, director of SRU's Center for Student Involvement and Leadership; and Noreen Herlihy, head women's soccer coach.