Monday, March 9, 2020

Meet the Team!

Hello Everyone!
Now that we are back in Erie, I think it's be great for everyone to know a little more about the team! We want to thank everyone who supported our group and walked with us on this amazing and transformational journey!
Until next time!

Hi everybody! My name is Grace Rihs. I am a sophomore Biology/Pre-Veterinary Medicine Major. Aftre attending my ABST to the Navajo Nation territory last year, I was super excited to jump into this trip! I'm so excited I got to meet so many inspirational women and cannot wait to bring it home to keep change going!

Hello! My name is Sydni McConnell and I am a freshman PA student from Pittsburgh. I’m so excited to be going on my first ABST and I can’t wait for all the experiences and opportunities to help the Ruskin community. I love Gannon, so it is so exciting to be able to see the campus in Ruskin as well. 

Name: Olivia Kelly
Year: Freshman
Hometown: Erie, PA
Major: Psychology / Biology
Why I chose Ruskin: I want to make a difference by doing real service for women and children impacted by human trafficking and domestic violence in order to take the information back to Erie.
Name: Abby Palotas
Year: Freshman
Major: Pre-Pharmacy
Hometown: Meadville, PA
I came on the Ruskin ABST to learn more about how to support women who have experienced domestic violence and human trafficking as well as grow closer with my classmates and expand my experience at Gannon.

Name: Abby Palotas
Year: Freshman
Major: Pre-Pharmacy
Hometown: Meadville, PA
I came on the Ruskin ABST to learn more about how to support women who have experienced domestic violence and human trafficking as well as grow closer with my classmates and expand my experience at Gannon.

Hello, my name is Jessica Bernat. I am a freshman at Gannon studying biomedical engineering and pre-med. The Ruskin trip was my first ABST experience. I chose this trip because up until, I had no exposure/experience with victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, or domestic violence. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to grow and become educated on the prevalent topics, and it was very much so.

Hi! My name is Jordan Saeli, and I am the Annual Fund Coordinator at Gannon. I am also studying Strategic Communication. The Ruskin trip I was drawn to because I wanted to learn more about domestic abuse and human trafficking to be more aware. I wanted to learn from this experience and be able to come back and raise awareness and truly help others. 

Hi! I’m Liv and I am one of the student leaders for the Ruskin ABST this year! I’m a sophomore from Erie, PA studying nursing. My end goal is to become a forensic nurse, which is why I’m so passionate about the issues tackled with the Ruskin trip!

Olympia "Ollie" Otulakowski is a freshman Biochemistry major that loves to help others. She is on this trip to learn more about the topics and use the information to help those she loves.

Hi! My name is Sydney Smith. As a sophomore physician assistant major, I know in the future my patients will come from all walks of life and all different types of experience. This trip is such an amazing way for me to begin understanding how I can best take care of my patients who have had such experiences. I also saw such empowerment in this trip through the education of those who go on it to the organizations themselves and the people they help. 

My name is Cassie McKernan and I am a junior PA major from Pittsburgh, PA. I was drawn to this trip because the heavy topics of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault are important to fully understand. Any individual can be a victim, therefore as a future healthcare provider I felt it was vital to educate myself in order to best serve my future patients. It was truly an eye-opening experience. 

Hello! I'm Heidi Brieger Noyes and I am the director of Commuter Life at Gannon. Having been in this role for almost 14 years, I have met so many amazing students and have had the privilege to watch them grow. I have been married to my husband, Craig, and have two wonderful boys, Joel & Luke. This is my first ABST but will not be my last!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

A Day of Self-Love

Hi Friends, Sydney here!
We are currently sitting in the Charlottle Airport in North Carolina on our heafty layover. We wanted to reflect on our experiences from yesterday at Enterprising Latinas and the Magic Mirror experience.
Enterprising Latinas is a nonprofit organization, started in 2009, to service the women on Wimauma, a small town that is the home to many farm workers.  The goal of Enterprising Latinas to to give the women in the town the opportunities that are often lacking or the avenues they need in order to achieve their goals.  The organization offers so many differnt services, from a citizenship class to prep for the citizenship exam to enterprenueship classes to help women start their own business to english classes to help the women learn english.  The stark difference between the retirement communities and suburban development and the small town of Wimauma shows the divide in priviledge and oppportunity in the area.  Around 49.8% of the women in Wimauma are living in poverty compared to the percentage in the teens in the Sun City Center area that is not even five minutes away.  One point that was stressed repeatedly by the center is the focus the cyclic nature of poverty.
"Poverty breeds exploitation"
When someone is so desperate for the neccessities in life and have such limited avenues for opportunity, they are so volunerable to be taken advantage of.  It is seen so often on the farms in the area.  The workers are often not paid liveable wages or given safe homes to live in.  The people have been placed into this poverty cycle that will continue to go around until it is broken.  Enterprising Latinas helps to break that cycle and gives people the opportunities needed to move away from such exploitation.
The nonprofit is continuing to grow and has so many goals for the future.  They are so inspiring with their work ethic and goals for the future.  I hope they will have success in their future and continue to give Wimauma amazing support.

After our amazing experience with Enterprising Latinas, we had Katie and Katherine come and had our touching Magic Mirror experience.  The goal of the Magic Mirror project is to identify our inner critic and allow our true selves come forth.  The experience was very eye opening to many of us and allowed us to reflect on ourselves and our lives.  We are so grateful for Katie and Katherine to come and give us this experience we can take thoughout our lives and be so supportive during the entire project.

This whole week has been so amazing and has allowed our group to come together and form such a bond.  The Magic Mirror project was the best way to end the week and give us that space to reflect and think about the altering experiences of the week.

Signing off!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Day of Celebration

Hello friends,
   Today was an eye-opening experience with the Salvation Army. While many associate the name with scoring great deals on brand-name clothing, home goods, and electronics, the Salvation Army is so much more. They offer a free adult rehabilitation program with the ultimate mission of treating the root causes of prolonged alcohol and drug dependence. We even got a testimonial of one individual who was thriving in the program. 

In addition, we were given a tour of the facilities. The warehouse was by far what I found most impressive as the massive scale of donations seemed daunting, yet individuals were working hard sorting them. 

Our group helped set-up tables for an alumni event that was occurring that night. The alumni event was recognizing the accomplishments of those individuals who had successfully completed the program, therefore we found it humbling to help orchestrate. The day flew by as we grew closer together as a team. It was inspiring to see such a large scale organization impacting so many individuals.  

     In the evening, we had our own alumni event. An alumni named Ken came and gave us some insight into his experience at Gannon. While some things have changed at Gannon, we all shared the pride of being apart of a university that cares so deeply about the world. 

During reflection, we discussed how the Catholic Social Teachings are applicable to our trip and to our future lives. We all could agree that we are meeting individuals who inspire us with their commitment to serving others so selflessly and aspire to replicate that type of positivity in our own lives.

-Cassie McKernan

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A Day of Perspective: Part 1

Hi everyone! Grace Rihs here again to talk about the first part of our day today.
Today we had the wonderful opportunity to visit the PACE Center for young girls. This organization works with troubled young girls who did not fit in traditional school settings. These young women are given an opportunity to transform their lives, however, through PACE and the numerous opportunitites the program provides to the community.
We met with the Associate Executive Director of the program and she told us that the various forms of schooling and tutoring offered focuses on relationship-oriented training and learning. They also utilize a gender-response approach as well as focusing on mental health issues to create lasting change in young women.
The people who dedicate their lives here are an inspiration! Through all of the dedication and hard work done by not only the staff, but also by the students, there is a beautiful and rare opportunity to truly metamorphosize.
Every room is detail oriented and utilized to see students succeed. From troops hand selected to aid in the development and collaboration of women, to the "interview closet", which provides clothing to students applying for jobs, every little detail counts towards changing the students' lives.
Our group feels so blessed to have been able to meet and understand an organization that does such good.
Hopefully, with hard work and a little more intention, we will be able to bring lasting change wherever we go to.

A Day of Perspective: Part 2

Hello Reader,
This afternoon we ventured out to Beth El Farmworker Ministries. This organization works to help migrant farmers in the local area with a wide range of basic necessities including food, clothing, education, healthcare, and many more. The staff were genuine, friendly, compassionate, and all around amazing. Mary-Ellen, the outreach coordinator, was so inspiring. She is one of many who is responsible for over 500 emmigrant community members. Her passion for serving was so evident as she shared memorable stories of those who have been helped by Beth El.

There are a few aspects of the campus that stand out. Dental service is provied once a month by dentists and their assistants for free. This is so significant because healthy hygeine and other medical services are provided, which are both physically and emotionally uplifting to the individuals. Another, important service is the thrift shop ranging from basic shirts and pants, to baby clothes and shoes; everying is one dollor or less. Also, clothes sold in the shop are damage free, without stains or rips. Beth El understands the significance of dignity.

Throughout the tour Mary-Ellen repeatedly brought up the importance of treating those they serve with respect and dignity. It is crucial to understand that recieving assistance from an organization should not be viewed in a negative light, but rather as a chance for growth and improvement.
Beth El is not only concerned with providing immediate solutions such as food, but also investing in the future of these families. By helping children achieve higher education and training, Beth El hopes to break the cycle of exhausting, laborous work for pocket change wages.

It was an honor today to witness the miracles of Beth El , and we should all find and invest in organizations that are as impactful and meaningful as Beth El Farmworker Ministries.

-Jess Bernat

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A Day of Juxtaposition

By Ollie Otulakowski

Today we held a symposium where two representatives from the Campaign Against Human Trafficking (CAHT) and a survivor of human trafficking spoke to us at our lovely Ruskin Gannon University campus. Both ladies from CAHT gave us statistics on the signs of human trafficking from the perspectives of medical proffessionals that most of us will be in the future, so that when we encounter a patient we can save their life in more ways than one. Unfortunately, Florida remains in the 3rd state of recored trafficking cases so the signs can be easy to find, even in airports. Especially at airports. We were even given information on how social media can be used in favor of traffickers, which is a scary concept since some of us do not know who is following us on our accounts. It takes effort to not be scared all the time because trafficking is everywhere, the perpetrators are a particular breed of adaptable indiviaduals.

The day got more emotional when our survivor spoke. She gave us information on PTSD, and how 89% of Americans 40 years old and above have this condition, and how it needs more recognition. That is when she went into her own story.
It shocked some of the group on how nonchalant she was about the trauma, she was so comfortable with her past, but not in a nostalgic way. She accepts it. From my experience of seeing abuse and with handling my own story, I will not enter in all the details since I did not explically recieve our survivor's permission to enter in those details. I will just say it is heartbreaking that people can be cruel to each other for selfish needs, and in this case it was family.
Now, she has some off weeks but she is alive and thriving and an advocate for PTSD awareness. She even warned us future medical proffessionals that we can suffer from it, and that we should be ready for when the time comes. Because life always comes with death, and the human mind always seems to struggle with accepting that fact.

Before you will get too sad about our day, we did balance it with a beach day. While it was a bit cloudy and windy, it was beautiful. The sand was almost a white powder and we could not stop having it run through our fingers. We even swam in the coean, and got some odd looks because we must have been doing the Florida version of the polar plunge. The water was cold, and incredibly salty, and a new experience for everyone.

We experienced somethings, bad and good. It makes for an interesting day of differences and overall will make a memorable time that I hope we will keep forever, both the black and white.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Day of Solidarity

Hi, Liv White here.

Today we started our day with a quick breakfast. After eating, we had a walking tour of the two buildings of the campus, led by a Gannon employee, Desi. The Ruskin campus truly is beautiful and feels like Gannon! 

The classrooms were incredible and state of the art. Some of us talked about how we could see ourselves going to Ruskin for grad school!After our tour, we had a quick presentation on the organization we were going to be volunteering at all day, the Mary and Martha house. 

The Mary and Martha house is an organization that houses women and their dependent children who are victims of domestic violence. We worked at their main office, helping them paint a shed, paint a bathroom, and organize supplies that had been donated. A few of us even got to work at the on-site thrift shop! The staff of the Mary and Martha house were so hospitable and we can’t thank them enough for their generosity and all they do for the community. They are truly everyday heroes. 

We finished our day with a homemade dinner of grilled chicken and veggies. We all worked together to make and serve the meal. Our labors were delicious! Everyone is really excited for the rest of the trip, and we can’t wait to see what else is in store!