Wheeling Jesuit students and staff participate in "Pittsburgh Plunge" immersion trip

  WJU News
  Monday, February 4, 2019 1:43 PM
  WJU News, Service

Wheeling, WV

This past December, 11 students and staff spent their time learning about social issues by participating in the "Pittsburgh Plunge" immersion trip. The group was faced with two questions: what can life look like after graduation and how can one let their light shine and continue being a man or woman for others? With a little help from some alumni and non-profit organizations, they were able to see the values of Wheeling Jesuit present throughout the city of Pittsburgh. 

During the trip, the group stayed at a men's shelter and met with different non-profits that help the under-served, marginalized, impoverished and those experiencing homelessness. They met with Dan Haller, Esq. '61, who works at Neighborhood Legal Services and also helped set up the trip with Kevin Hayes who has been running the Pittsburgh Plunge for students from the University of Notre Dame for decades.

Cam Smith, a senior at WJU, shared, “Closing your mind to people and places different than your own only creates a larger gap between you and them. In reality, it isn’t ‘them.’ It should be ‘us.’ The Pittsburgh Plunge bridges that gap in realizing that in the end, we are all just human and we all feel pain and we all want to feel accepted.”

Another alumnus who shared his ministry was Fr. Paul Abernathy '01, who runs FOCUS North America, which has recently developed an incredible trauma response team that serves the community. They are also known for their backpack program which provides backpacks full of food for kids whose only meal of the day is usually the free lunch they receive at school. Because of meeting people like these, it taught Dona’e Albert that “It only takes one person’s initiative, mission, and drive to start something that can truly make a difference in the lives of others,” said Albert, who has plans of her own to start a non-profit to help people experiencing homelessness.

The group also went to Gwen's Girls, which provides after school and summer programming for girls ages 8-18, and Crossroads Foundation, which partners with a few Pittsburgh-area Catholic high schools to provide better educational opportunities and futures for 8th-12th graders. This past year, 93% of their scholars went to a four-year college and the others went to the military. The students also visited Casa San Jose, operated by Sisters of St. Joseph, that serves Latino immigrants in the city. The last place the group went was Focus on Renewal, which serves Sto-Rox, and provides services such as culinary and dance programs to transportation for different appointments. Cynthia Haynes, the executive director, made a lasting impact on junior Chelsey Ward, “She captured my full attention by her story of rising up from poverty, bettering herself and returning to her roots to give back to her impoverished community to make it a better and safer place for everyone around.”

A brand new group of Wheeling Jesuit alumni are working to continue this experience for future classes as the school continues its mission of life, leadership and service with and among others.

Wheeling Jesuit University is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the country offering 25 majors and concentrations, 15 minors, and six graduate programs. The University provides a Jesuit, Catholic, liberal arts education, and our affordable programs unite the Jesuit tradition of intellectual excellence allowing students to receive an education for life, leadership and service with and among others. The 65-acre campus is situated on the Ohio River 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, and two hours east of Columbus, in Wheeling, WV.  

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