Service Rewards University Students, Scranton Residents, and Children at Bancroft Elementary School

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Enriching your community has its rewards. University of Scranton volunteers count smiling students, stronger seniors and cherished birthday memories among theirs. Six University of Scranton students have been recognized as AmeriCorps Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania for 2010-2011. The award honors students who have committed to complete 300 hours of individual service in the community during the academic year. The six scholars recently put the finishing touches on their 300 hours – literally. In April, the scholars finished a

6-foot by 50-foot mural that now brightens the cafeteria at Bancroft Elementary School on Albright Avenue. Throughout the year, they also helped seniors with physical fitness, planned birthday parties for children stricken with cancer and helped deliver food to pantries and shelters throughout northeast Pennsylvania.

Kathleen Callahan, a senior counseling major and a Scholar in Service, said the mural was painted to support Bancroft's four mottoes  -- the values its students are meant to treasure: be kind, be responsible, be safe, be respectful. Bancroft students who display these virtues earn “purple paw” awards. The mural helps them to see the kinds of behaviors worthy of a purple paw.

“The mural brings the school mottoes to life,” Callahan said. “The children can see the values in action.” Moreover, the vivid colors of the painting bring life to a basement cafeteria that heretofore was uniformly dull green and white cinder block. Junior exercise science major David Hopp explained, “It's brought a lot of color to the room. Lunch should be a fun time for the kids, where they talk with their friends. This lightens the mood. It's refreshing.”

Lori Moran of Scranton’s Community Outreach Office supervises the scholars. She said her students had initially discussed doing a “classroom makeover.” However, Bancroft's Principal Ann Grebeck knew instantly what she wanted when Ms. Moran called her.

“She knew what project she wanted right off the top of her head. She wanted a mural on the cafeteria wall. And she was right. The kids love it. They've given us a stack of thank-you cards,” Moran said, displaying a pile of construction-paper and crayon creations with heartfelt messages including, “I love the picture” and “You did good work.”

In addition to the colorful artwork, Scranton's Scholars in Service have donated their time to many other community projects. Hopp conducted classes in physical fitness at the West Side Senior Center, for example. He says he and other student volunteers created a “mix” of oldies music set to an “upbeat” tempo and lead the seniors in moves meant to improve muscle tone and promote balance.

“Three hundred hours means you need good time management skills,” Hopp said. “There were small sacrifices. I could have been playing X-box or watching TV, but this was definitely better. It was a good time.”

Callahan cites one unforgettable project in which she was involved as a Scholar in Service. “I worked with Cancertacular and we helped plan a birthday party for a four-year-old girl with brain cancer. The party was on campus and all the children, their families and the student volunteers were there,” she said. It was a moving experience that the volunteers and the child involved will always treasure.

In addition to Kathleen Callahan, who hails from West Babylon, N.Y., and David Hopp, who is from Jarrettsville, Md., Scranton students receiving the Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania award are: Sarah Cil, a junior majoring in exercise science from Fairfield, N.J.; Lauren DelleDonne, a sophomore majoring in nursing from Colts Neck, N.J.; Kelly Evans, a junior majoring in nursing from Noxen; and Katherine Juliano, a sophomore majoring in nursing from Warwick, N.Y.

Other nonprofits benefiting from the efforts of the scholars include Allied Services, Scranton  Primary Health Care, Clarks Summit Fire Company, Infant Care at Covenant Presbyterian Church and St. Paul’s/St. Clare’s Food Pantry.