The Misericordia University Class of 2018 has launched a student philanthropy project to establish a new scholarship fund as their class gift to the University. It is the first scholarship fund generated by a currently enrolled class, and it is the first time current students have dedicated their class gift specifically to future students in the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program at Misericordia University.
The effort is part of the new initiative on campus, Students Today, Alumni Forever, which is dedicated to raising awareness of and overseeing student philanthropy on campus.
The idea to establish the Misericordia University Class of 2018 Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program as a class gift came out of talks among class leaders in the past spring, said Class President Michael Dubinski '18, a Hanover Township resident who is a sophomore in the Government, Law and National Security Program. The group believes that raising the $25,000 needed to endow a scholarship before their December 2018 graduation is a daunting, but doable endeavor given the culture of Misericordia and the spirit of service and giving that draws most students to the campus.
"Students at Misericordia are different – we are not the typical members of the 'Me Generation,'" Dubinski explained. "Most of us realize that the campus would not exist if someone, such as the Sisters of Mercy, had not made a concerted effort to help someone else. We wanted to make our class gift one that would benefit the campus well into the future."
There are currently 473 traditional and non-traditional students enrolled and expected to graduate as part of the Class of 2018. Given the math, if each student donated $53 over the next 31 months, the goal would be met. "If each of our classmates put away $2 a month, we would easily make our goal," Dubinski added.
Yet the committee is hoping to expand their outreach by inviting the campus community, alumni and local community to be a part of the project and make a donation.
"We are hoping to build on the extraordinary culture of student service that already exists at the campus and create an equally impressive culture of student philanthropy," Dubinski continued. "Nearly 99 percent of students on campus receive some sort of financial aid. This is our first major opportunity to pay it forward to future students with need. We chose the Bourger Women with Children Program because the women in the program are so amazing, and what they do to juggle academics and working, along with raising a child (or two), is nothing short of amazing."
The Bourger Women with Children Program is one of only eight programs of its kind in the country, and provides free housing to as many as 10 single mothers and their children on campus. The women also receive academic support and social services to help them while they earn their bachelor's degree. The program currently has 10 women and 12 children living in two houses near the campus. To date, 55 women have participated in the program. Although priority is given to women from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, students from as far away as Utah have participated. Efforts are underway to expand the program and add a third house in the near future.
"We have a group of 12 volunteers who have agreed to serve as ambassadors for the project. They have numerous activities planned to promote student philanthropy – and showcase the ways in which philanthropy helps – throughout the year," added Michael Gombita '18 of Equinunk, who is president and chief operating officer of Students Today, Alumni Forever.
Gombita is making use of his expertise as a communications major to work with Class Advisor Matthew Hinton, M.F.A., coordinator of writing in the Student Success Center, to create a communications plan for the campaign that includes a web page, Facebook page and other social media accounts to best involve all Misericordia students and alumni. "We expect to have one of the women from the Bourger program graduate with us, so that makes this class gift extra special."
The Class Gift tradition at Misericordia dates back more than 20 years and has included a variety of projects and designations, including benches, trees, landscaping and outdoor lighting projects. The classes of 2002, 2003 and 2004 collaborated to fund the majestic statue of the Cougar in front of the Anderson Sports and Health Center. Most recently, the Class of 2015 designated their gift to the Joan Krause Student Emergency Fund, which is available to students in case of crisis.
If funded, the inaugural scholarship will be awarded in 2019, and will likely benefit a student in the class of 2024, the year the University celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is a coincidence that is helping energize the organizing committee.
The group's first major fundraising event is a benefit concert. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" will feature the University's female a cappella group, Beyond Harmony, on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall. Proceeds from the family-friendly event will go to the Class of 2018 Endowed Scholarship Fund. The a cappella concert will include a selection of holiday favorites, including "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "Silent Night," among others, sung by Beyond Harmony, interspersed with appearances by children in the Bourger Women with Children Program. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students of all ages, children, senior citizens and alumni. Tickets will be available at the door and refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Misericordia Box Office at (570) 674-6719, e-mail organizer Kali McCornac at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.misericordia.edu/theartsandmore.
For information on the Misericordia University Class of 2018 Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program or to donate, go to http://cougarconnect.misericordia.edu/classof2018 or contact Students Today, Alumni Forever at (570) 674-6768.
For more information about Misericordia University, please call (570) 674-6400 or log on to www.misericordia.edu. Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County's first four-year college and offers 32ß degree programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report's 2016 edition of Best Colleges and was designated a 2016 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.
Discussing plans for the Misericordia University Class of 2018 Endowed Scholarship Fund for the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program are, from left, Michael Dubinski, Class of 2018 president, Hanover Township, Pa.; Katherine Pohlidal, director, Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children Program, and Michael Gombita, president and chief operating officer of Students Today, Alumni Forever, Equinunk, Pa.