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Five Mount Students Volunteer 750 Hours of Community Service

service feature

Nathaniel Bald, C’21, and Professor Layton Field, Ph.D., review Bald's research.

“How has somebody judged you?” Professor of Education Michelle Ohanian, Ph.D., asked her Semester of Service students. This semester, Nathaniel Bald, C’21, Timothy DeRosa, C’20, Austin Flowers, C’21, Jordan Hunt, C’20, and Ashley Torkornoo, C’22, served selflessly and made a difference locally. Together, they completed more than 750 hours of community service in Emmitsburg and Thurmont, Maryland. In addition to taking Ohanian’s Semester of Service course, students were paired with community organizations relevant to their chosen field of study and future career plans. For 10 hours each week, they volunteered at the Seton Center, FUSE Teen Center, Mount St. Mary’s University, Seton Thrift Store, and the Thurmont Food Bank.

An Incredible Privilege

jordan-service.jpg“I learned that serving others starts with recognizing your own values and biases first,” said psychology major Jordan Hunt, C’20, who served at FUSE Teen Center (FUSE) on East Main Street in Thurmont, Maryland. She set up food, games, crafts and activities for kids who came after school. Her site leader, Susan Crone, C’88, founded FUSE in May 2017 to create a safe place for teens to hang out, play games, do homework, meet friends and just be themselves.

Hunt admitted working with tweens and teens was harder than she originally thought. At first, she identified good kids and bad kids. “Eventually I got to learn more about them,” she said. “Kids became comfortable enough to tell me their stories. I even got to learn what life at home was like for my ‘bad kids’ and I stopped seeing them in that way.” Confronted with her biases, she reflected on her values.

“Not every community you serve will have the same values as you do, and that’s OK. It’s not your job, as a Christian, to make everyone think the way you do,” she said. “It’s your job to uphold the human dignity of every person you can. It’s easier said than done—but it’s our mission.”

While she participated in service work in the past, she says this opportunity to build stronger support systems for kids has been an incredible privilege. Her freshman year she participated in a service trip to Belize with the Mount’s Office of Social Justice. She also considered being a part of last year’s pilot Semester of Service but wasn’t ready to live off campus and was already committed to being an AMP leader.

Origins in Philadelphia

The Semester of Service began in 2018 as a result of the growing partnership between the Daughters of Charity and Mount St. Mary’s University, known as Seton Dubois. Named for their respective founders, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mount founder Father John DuBois, the Seton Dubois Initiative recognized this program fit well at the forefront of its mission to serve others as well as the Church.

Last fall, Josue Amaya, C’19, Richard Medina, C’21, and Annisha Montgomery, C’19, had the unique opportunity to spend the semester living in community with their peers and serving others in an outreach in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The three students completed Ohanian’s hybrid Semester of Service course and logged more than 900 service hours at an immigration office and two homeless shelters.

At its core, the Semester of Service combines academic classes with an immersive service learning experience. In designing the program, Director of Social Justice Ian Van Anden and Dean of the School of Education Barbara Marinak, Ph.D. had three main goals: Empowering students to learn, serve and lead.

Love in Action

tim-seton-thrift.jpgTimothy DeRosa, C’20, a business and theology major, spent his time at Seton Family Store in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The thrift store is located inside Seton Center, Inc., which is sponsored and staffed by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul, local residents and volunteers.

 “The Semester of Service is such an eye-opening experience,” he explained. This semester DeRosa attended weekly management meetings, ran the register, helped process donations and assisted customers looking for specific household items and articles of clothing.

Kenneth (Kenny) Droneburg, operations manager at Seton Family Store, was DeRosa’s site supervisor and has worked with the Daughters of Charity for more than 31 years. “Kenny has been a great leader for the past few months,” DeRosa commented. “His love of service has helped the Seton Family Store grow into what it is today. He has taught me so much about how to love the work I’m doing. He is always looking for ways to improve the store and make our jobs a bit easier.”

“I am not the same man now that I was at the beginning of the semester,” DeRosa said. “For me, the Semester of Service provided the opportunity to live out the call I have as a Catholic to serve those around me.”

ResearchING Local & Global Impact

nate-in-text.jpgNathaniel Bald, C’21, worked with Assistant Professor of Sociology Layton Field, Ph.D. and Mount CARiTAS (Community Advancement Resources in Training, Assessment and Service) at a research-based internship this fall.

Field served as a faculty mentor for Josue Amaya, C’19, who participated in last year’s Semester of Service. This year Field was a site supervisor and welcomed Bald’s help with two major research projects.

For the first project, Bald met with Thurmont Food Bank’s manager Pastor Sally Joyner-Griffin to develop a client needs survey. The second project, Matthew-25 Series, looked at poverty on multiple levels. “To me, Matthew 25 is a call to action for each of us as individuals, but especially for the Mount as an institution,” Field wrote. “I believe the Semester of Service engages our mission more directly and intentionally than any other program on campus!”

Bald is a triple major in economics, French and German and has researched and written various articles regarding food insecurity. He plans to apply for a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Luxembourg. After that, he hopes to attend graduate school in Europe or work for an international consulting firm.

“I most certainly plan on continuing my studies on poverty and how institutions like the Mount can continue to use its unique talents to bolster service organizations and communities, both local and global,” Bald said.

Increasing Awareness

ashley.jpgAshley Torkornoo, C’22, volunteered at Seton Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and worked hard to connect audiences as a marketing intern. This semester the communication major helped manage social media channels, promote local events and write blog posts and newsletters for Seton Center Outreach and Seton Family Store.

The communication major learned about the Semester of Service through iLead and took to heart why service matters and how each person can contribute his or her unique talent. In addition to expanding awareness and increasing audience engagement, Torkornoo said “I tried to get Mount students involved.” Holding up the Mountain Echo, she proudly showed an ad for Seton Center, offering students a 15% off discount to the Family Store.

“She has increased our following and our growth,” said Marketing Manager Lynne Tayler. “We have consistent postings. We get comments. She has really done a great job reaching out to a broader spectrum of people. She’s actually taught me a couple of things. She’s been fantastic.”

Reflection & Perspective

Ohanian’s class provided readings that challenged the students to dive deeper into many concepts regarding identity and community. “The course was an excellent blend of synthesizing ideas on service, Catholic Social Teaching, culture and interpersonal dialogue,” Bald said. Each student was asked to keep a record of what they learned through a visual log like Instagram or a Google Doc. “It’s about personal transformation and reflection,” Ohanian echoed. Last year’s students shared their experiences at the Mount’s SPARC festival.

Throughout the semester, students looked at ways a community celebrates and often took trips to community events such as Catoctin Color Fest. Students last year visited museums, cultural events and sports stadiums to learn how individuals of a community functioned together.

Graduate assistant Laquan Simpkins works in the Office of Social Justice and has helped coordinate schedules and provided rides for students to get to their service sites. He even planned a visit to the Veteran Homeless Shelter so students could understand how that service functions in the community. Last year graduate assistant Vincent Rapposelli, C’17, worked with the Philadelphia Semester of Service students.  

The Role of Social Justice & Public Policy

Students learned the importance of social justice—and how public policy can address the issues they’ve witnessed and the stories they’ve heard. “They’ve done the small acts,” Ohanian said. “Now it’s about the really big picture. They’ve met people in their community and now we ask them to respond to it and learn what the community wants and needs.”

Bald sums up his Semester of Service with this story: “Whenever there was a pause from taking surveys, Dr. Field and I would just pick a few people and go talk with them, just to give them company,” he said. A lot of those conversations were very sobering. Later, while I was manually inputting the survey data, I couldn’t help but speculate that the numbers I saw were only scratching the surface of so many people’s stories. I think knowing everyone has a story has impacted me the most. More often than not, the stories of those in need are forgotten.”

In its second year, the Semester of Service made an impact close to home and offered students unparalleled opportunity to reimagine the forgotten in exchange for a renewed purpose and a greater good. “The 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is where the Lord instructs the disciples about the final judgment and how we will all be judged on the basis of how we cared for the least among us,” said Field.


A location for next year has not yet been determined. Interested students, faculty and others should contact the Office of Social Justice. “Make the leap of faith!” Bald exclaimed. “Service is about taking initiative and the Semester of Service will definitely give you the necessary environment to make new ideas a reality.