Gannon University Students Make a Service Trip to Capitol Hill
Posted: August 28, 2017
Most Gannon University students return home after finals week,
but a group of dedicated students instead headed to Washington,
D.C. for a week of service at the Father McKenna Center, a
nonprofit social agency serving the poor and those experiencing
homelessness, followed by meetings on Capitol Hill to talk about
what they learned.
The students met with staffers from the office of Pennsylvania's
junior senator, Pat Toomey and with James Marsh, a 2016 Gannon
graduate who is the staffer on housing issues in the office of Mike
Kelly, the U.S. Representative for the 3rd Congressional District
that includes portions of Erie County.
Jessie Badach Hubert, the assistant director of Gannon's Center for Social Concerns, called Marsh, who was active in Campus
Ministry as a student, "a good friend of the Center's. He watched
his peers have these transformative service trip experiences, and
in thinking about faith, reason and political life, he now works to
seek positive community impact. It was cool that this former
student who was living his possibility could meet our students
where he's at as they dip their toes in to political engagement,
many for the first time."
Hubert described the goal of the service trip this way: "We
wanted the students to see how service connects with civic
engagement and political action, to see the wholeness of the
enterprise through all those lenses. Working at the Father McKenna
Center builds empathy, understanding and compassion so that
students lead with curiosity and compassion rather than with fear
when they meet someone who is living on the street. It's the
service of presence."
Joseph Mokwa, a May graduate in social work from Erie, was one
of those students. Mokwa, who now works as an AmeriCorps VISTA, was
deeply moved and humbled by the experience. "It's one thing to talk
about homelessness or to watch a presentation, but to encounter it
personally, there's a beauty in it. It's more rewarding to directly
serve," he said.
The service trip to the nation's capital was the second for
Mokwa, who also participated in a service experience at the
Glenmary Group Volunteer Program in Tennessee. He counts these
experiences as pivotal signposts on the path to a career.
"What pointed me to VISTA was my service projects and
the responsibilities I obtained throughout my college career,
especially my social change fellowship partnering with a community
organization that was working problems that stem from poverty."
Would Mokwa follow Marsh into government? He's not sure, but he
is certain that service of some kind will remain a large part of
his life going forward. "I always thought of service as hard, nitty
gritty work, but the service of presence can be just as