Mount Mercy volunteers lend a hand in the desert Southwest

During Mount Mercy’s recent Spring Break, 12 members of the campus community gave up their vacation to travel to St. Michaels, Arizona to volunteer within the Native American community. The Mount Mercy volunteers served at St. Michaels Association for Special Education (SMASE), a private special education school on the Navajo Reservation which is funded by the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the State of Arizona, and area school districts.

Before traveling to Arizona the 10 Mount Mercy students and two faculty and staff members conducted fundraising efforts and met several times for planning, community building, and communication training. The group included senior Zeek Murray; junior Travis Eagle; sophomores Megan Even, Mary Groepper, Kailee Jordan, Breann O’Hern, and Rachel Soldner; and freshmen Emily Hayungs and Andrew Koshatka; Dr. Mary Tarbox, professor of nursing, and
Chris Peckover, admission representative. They departed from Mount Mercy on March 15 for the journey to Arizona, worked at SMASE from March 17 – 21, and returned to Cedar Rapids on March 22.

While at SMASE, Mount Mercy volunteers assisted the staff by helping children in classrooms, doing clerical work, and working on landscaping projects. The group had an opportunity to learn about the Navajo culture and to visit parts of the Southwest. They stayed at St. Michaels Parish, one of the oldest missions on the Navajo Reservation, slept on classroom floors, and helped with dinner preparations and clean-up duties.

Megan Even, a sophomore from Jesup, Iowa, majoring in elementary education, has participated in three service learning trips while attending Mount Mercy. “I’ve gone on these trips because I love to serve!,” she says. “They’re a chance to help people in need, and I am able to learn a lot about myself. The trips have allowed me to figure out what is truly important to me and to set goals for my future. The trip to St. Michaels allowed me to learn about a different culture and to help children with special needs. Anyone thinking about going on a service learning trip during their time at Mount Mercy should go!”

The service trip, planned by the Office of Volunteerism and Service Learning, is one of many service opportunities held throughout the year. Other service experiences include trips to Appalachia and also to New Orleans for on-going hurricane relief. Mount Mercy alumni are also encouraged to join the service trips. Interested persons should contact Susan Davidson, coordinator of volunteerism and service learning, at