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RMU Students Lend Helping Hand at Mooncrest Community Center

Director Sister Rene Procopio says student volunteers from the Moon Township university are an integral part of the Mooncrest Center.

It's game time on a Tuesday evening at the Mooncrest Community Center. 

Students huddle around tables—homework assignments are polished up and put away for the day, traded in for board games and puzzles. 

Josh Blum, a student at Robert Morris University, mulls his next move in a chess game. 

"We come in and we'll help them with math and English stuff," said Blum, who has been assisting at the Mooncrest Center for several semesters of his tenure at RMU. "And then we hang out with them." 

More than 50 students attend the after-school program each week at the Mooncrest Community Center, a neighborhood outreach program in Moon spearheaded by the Felician Sisterhood. 

Center Director Sister Rene Procopio said student volunteers from the Moon Township-based Robert Morris University have become increasingly integral to the after-school program, offering up their time to tutor and provide one-on-one attention with the students, who are in first through sixth grades. 

"It's not at all related to my major," Blum said. "I didn't really know anything about the neighborhood. But aside from that I think the students here are really great."

Procopio said the university first began working with the Mooncrest Center in 2005. She calls the partnership among the "strongest" the center has formed since its founding. 

"They're good role models," Procopio said. "It gives the students a chance to get one-on-one attention. They're good examples of people who are pursuing a higher education.

"It's a great, great partnership," she said. 

Procopio said RMU students lead new fitness classes at the center, and allow for individualized tutoring and homework assistance. 

On this Tuesday, a dozen RMU students mingle with Mooncrest after-school program attendees, some cutting and pasting together a construction paper turkey. 

The college students are a fixture at the Hemlock Drive after-school program. On various nights of the week volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club, nursing and education majors, and students pursuing Greek life or work-study programs are counted among the center's tutors and chaperones.

The RMU men's basketball team stops in to help with tutoring during their off-season, Procopio said. 

RMU sophomore Amber Greene began working at the center a year ago as a sorority service project when she met 8-year-old Alyshja, a student she now tutors and mentors through the program. 

"I want to come back every year and keep working with her," said Greene, a finance major. "I couldn't leave her. You come in here, and you see the students happy and smiling that you're here, and you form connections with them." 

The partnership between the center and university was bolstered two years ago when Procopio filmed an ad spot for RMU's "Change a Life" campaign, where she touted RMU student service through the center. 

RMU student Justin Fuss spent his Tuesday evening hunched over a child-sized table, working on an art project alongside a Mooncrest student. The Boys & Girls Club volunteer heard about the Mooncrest Center through his girlfriend, and decided to volunteer.  

"You just kind of have to have patience and go with the flow," said Fuss of what he's learned during his time as a tutor. "And I think with the way the center is, it operates pretty well. (The Mooncrest Center) gives students a sense of structure." 

Amanda Gillooly November 15, 2012 at 03:52 PM
What a great story. As someone who grew up in Mooncrest, it makes me happy to see these positive initiatives to help the kids there!

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