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Waynesburg University's students are accustomed to applying classroom concepts to real-world situations and taking learning outside of the classroom. Last month, the University's public relations students took that learning all the way to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., for the annual Renaissance Awards.

 

The Awards, sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pittsburgh Chapter, showcased top regional public relations talent and awarded practitioners who excelled in the field in 2012. Waynesburg University students worked closely with the chair of the Renaissance Awards to prepare for the notable event.

 

After meeting Dan Ayer, chair of the Renaissance Awards Committee and senior account executive at Gatesman + Dave, at a November 2012 Chapter speaking engagement, Richard Krause, chair of the Department of Communication and Faculty Adviser to the Waynesburg University Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) offered the skills of the Chapter.

 

“I told him that we have great students who aspire to work in public relations and take advantage of any opportunities that come their way,” Krause said. “He quickly took advantage of the offer and now our students have this wonderful opportunity.”

 

Ayer coordinated with the students via email and meetings to delegate tasks and track progress. He is grateful for their “outstanding help” and applauds Waynesburg students for their volunteerism and eagerness to learn.

 

“I've had the opportunity to speak at a number of local colleges and universities across the area, but I have yet to come across a group of students positioning themselves for successful careers better than the students who make up the PRSSA Chapter at Waynesburg University,” Ayer said. “The students jump at every opportunity to learn and have exceeded my expectations every time I have interacted with them.”

 

Students arrived at the venue early to set tables with programs and favors, assemble the registration table and assist Ayer and his team with any public relations activities necessary. Mitch Graham, a senior public relations major from Meadville, Pa., worked closely with Ayer to keep a running spreadsheet of registered event guests during the holidays and managed the registration table at the event.

 

“From learning how to conduct myself in a highly professional manner to being able to talk the jargon of the industry effectively, my education and experience at Waynesburg University fully prepared me for the experience,” Graham said.

 

The Waynesburg University PRSSA Chapter, a pre-professional organization possessing national membership, recently entered its third chartered year and has approximately 20 dues-paying members. Krause is confident that the Chapter will continue to grow and flourish as it continues to volunteer for events such as the Renaissance Awards.

 

Brittany Semco, a junior public relations and interactive design major from Newport, R.I., served as the event photographer's assistant throughout the evening. She helped pose people for photographs and made introductions for the photographer. She communicated her interest in photography to Ayer and received the personalized responsibility as a result.

 

“I immediately volunteered because I knew it would be an invaluable opportunity to meet public relations professionals and strengthen my skills,” Semco said. “I got to network with so many people there.”

 

Students returned from the event with business cards and contact information from respected public relations professionals, and many were encouraged to apply for summer internships by company representatives they met.

 

“Volunteering at the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards is an excellent opportunity for students to get an inside look into the world of event planning and public relations,” Ayer said. “My hope is that each student received a positive experience and was inspired to develop the campaigns and work that will be honored at future PRSA award shows.”

 

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So what's it like at a small, private, Christian College in PA around finals? Well, these two videos tell the story. It's all about community and coming together to strengthen, encourage and at times entertain each other.

 

President and Mrs. Thyreen hold the annual President's Late Night Breakfast on the first night of finals. It's a chance for students to come together, get a great meal cooked and served by the university administrators and prepare for the week ahead.

 

 

The Student Activities Board prepares for finals week by making care packages for students. These care packages are paid for by parents of students and are delivered just in time for finals.

 

 

If you'd like to be a part of a small, engaged, Christian university in Pennsylvania, click here to find out more about Waynesburg University.

 

 

 

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hope walk resized 600

Demonstrating a dedication to their calling even before entering the workforce, Cami Abernethy and Alissa Boyle made a decision almost eight months ago that has since left them forever changed.

 

In the morning darkness of February 20, 2012, an SUV came to a stop on its side with its roof facing on-coming traffic, blocking the left lane of I-79S in Perry Township, Pa. A local man had fallen asleep at the wheel and was unable to free himself from the vehicle.

 

Cami and Alissa, along with seven classmates and a professor, stopped at the scene even though they were en route to their clinical nursing studies in Morgantown, W. Va.

 

After pulling the stranger out of his vehicle through a hole in the windshield, the nursing students were assessing his medical condition when an oncoming tractor-trailer came barreling toward them. A few of the students quickly realized the tractor-trailer would be unable to stop, but as a result of the darkness, they did not realize they were on a bridge.

 

In the seconds that followed, the students fled for safety, reacting quickly to the oncoming danger. Cami and Alissa jumped over the cement barrier of the bridge, thinking they would land safely on the other side. Instead, they fell approximately 50 feet to the ground below and looked to their classmates for help in the moments that followed. The paramedics arrived and both women were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital where they received operations related to their respective injuries.

 

In the weeks before the accident, both women counted down the days to graduation and talked about what the Lord had in store for their lives. In fact, just two days before the accident, on February 18, Alissa said yes to the man of her dreams when he asked for her hand in marriage. Little did they know that their lives would soon be forever changed both physically and spiritually.

 

For Cami, the initial plan was a second surgery six months after the first, to make sure that the rods placed in her back during the first surgery were the appropriate size for her body. That six month date has come and gone, and fortunately for Cami, her doctors determined that the surgery was not necessary at this point. As long as the rods are not causing her pain, Cami will not have to undergo surgery to adapt the size of the rods.

 

Following her first surgery, Cami was encouraged to walk as much as physically possible. So with her father by her side, she did just that.

 

“My father and I went to the park every day. I started with a half lap and worked my way to three laps and bleacher steps,” she said.

 

When her doctor had determined that her back had healed enough to begin physical therapy, Cami embraced the opportunity and spent three months building strength and range of motion.

 

Following the three months of therapy, Cami has continued to progress on her own using techniques introduced through her physical therapy sessions. Her progress slowly blossomed from lifting one gallon to 25 pounds to 50 pounds, where she is today.

 

Although Cami has remained positive and focused through the last eight months, she continues to battle the lasting effects of the day of the accident.

 

“The accident temporarily put my life on hold. I'm now to the place in my life where I should be because I've graduated and I have a career. I have no complaints because I can continue to travel the path I started before the accident,” she said.

 

Unwilling to let the accident further slow her goals, Cami finished school a month and a half ago and received word September 20 that she had passed her boards. She recently accepted a position with Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in the neonatal intensive care unit and began working October 8.

 

“I'm definitely more motivated to succeed in life because I've received an extraordinary gift, and that's a second chance at life,” she said. “I have realized that February 20th wasn't my time to go and that there's something here on this earth that I need to complete before I leave. I want to make sure I do that, whatever it may be! This experience has driven me to be the best I can be and help as many people as I can during my time here.”

 

Cami said she has “no words to describe the thanks I have for my friends, family and the Waynesburg community.” She is also grateful that her friend Alissa has been by her side through her entire recovery process.

 

“I know she feels the same way. I know it sounds wrong to say, but we both have said we feel blessed to have gone through this together and not alone,” she said.

 

Both women feel grateful to their classmates for the way they responded to their injuries.

 

“My fellow nursing students saved our lives that day and they are my heroes. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else taking care of me that morning.”

 

As for the community, Cami said there was not a day that went by where she did not receive a card, flowers or a phone call.

 

“Knowing that people were praying for me and cared about me, kept me going,” she said. “And of course I owe my family the world for helping me through. Alissa and I are blessed to have all these wonderful people in our lives.”

 

For Alissa, the challenges have been more significant as she has not regained feeling in her lower limbs. Since the accident, Alissa has experienced two surgeries (February 20 and February 29). The first involved the insertion of rods and the use of a piece of bone from her hip to fuse her spine together where burst fractures were located, and the second involved the removal of swelling and bone fragments. After the second surgery, Alissa learned that her spinal cord is bruised and that her injury is one that has unclear outcomes.

 

Undeterred and convinced that she will one day walk again, Alissa has chosen to fight. She continues to have checkups with her neurosurgeon and rehabilitation specialist and also has access to her family physician for any problems related to her spinal cord injury.

 

Twice per week, Alissa experiences hour-long therapy sessions involving electrode pads on her muscles that stimulate her muscles to peddle the bike. With each therapy session, Alissa notices improvements and has had some change in feelings in her legs. Her normal feeling goes halfway down her thigh, and she is able to tell where her therapist is moving her legs (bringing her knee to her chest or pulling her leg in or out). At this point, she is still unable to sense the movement of her foot.

 

“My life has changed a lot,” she said. “There are days that life is really hard, but I know I have to do everything possible to walk again and I can't give up.”

 

According to Alissa, her “amazing support system” will not allow her to give up.

 

“My family and friends have helped me so much. They treat me the same, which is really important to me because sometimes I feel different, especially when people stare.”

 

Although Alissa admits to having days where she wonders, “why me,” she knows that ultimately she wouldn't change a thing.

 

“I do sometimes wonder, ‘why am I going through all this pain,' but then I think it could be worse – that there is someone out there that is suffering worse than I am. I know that God has a plan for me and I just need to leave it in his hands.”

 

Alissa is currently finishing up her Waynesburg University coursework online and plans to continue to work toward her goal of becoming a nurse. After spending four years preparing to be a bedside nurse, Alissa is now thinking about other specialized areas that would allow her to utilize her skills.

 

“I have always enjoyed cardiac or the heart, but after having a spinal cord injury I might do something related to that.”

 

Alissa walks in her braces each day, which allowed her to walk down the aisle in her brother's wedding in July. In the spirit of love, in the middle of the dance floor, her fiancé picked her up to slow dance and assured her that she was still “the same woman he asked to marry him.” Ironically, her trip down the aisle was the perfect practice run for her own wedding set for September 7, 2013.

 

Assisted by Jamie's Dream Team, an organization created in 2005 to lift the spirits of those suffering from, and ease the burden caused by, serious illness, injury, disability or trauma, Alissa has immersed herself in wedding planning.

 

“I am going to work as hard as I can to walk again, but there is only so much I can do, and the rest I have to leave to God and His plan for me,” she said.

 

Unwilling to give up anytime soon, Alissa said she hopes that it is God's will for her to walk again, as she dreams of being an inspiration to those around her, to show others that “nothing is impossible.”

 

Cami also has an upcoming wedding set for May 24, 2013, and Alissa will be by her side as a bridesmaid, another practice walk down the aisle in anticipation of her own wedding. The two know that their journey together, including their upcoming marriages to best friends who met in the Army before the women were even roommates, has created a lifelong friendship.

 

Since the accident, the Waynesburg University community, along with the support of family, friends and complete strangers, has come together to raise more than $35,000 for the Cami and Alissa Fund, created to relieve financial burdens for both families.


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Waynesburg University CSI students resized 600

Have you ever watched CSI and thought: “I could do that”?

 

Have you ever sat in your recliner with a bag of chips, watching the characters uncovering the crime scene, and tried to solve the investigation before the show reveals the ending?
If you answered yes to these questions, then Waynesburg University may be the place to test your abilities.

 

Earlier this week, four Waynesburg forensic science students accepted the challenge to live out their own CSI moments when they were called by the Maltase Fire Investigation http://www.maltasefire.com/ to help investigate the source of a local house fire.

 

Seniors Stephanie Yocca, Jennifer Miller, Cory Briendel and junior Drew Heinle dug through layers of ashy debris in search of any electrical appliances that could have potentially ignited the flames.

 

Like the actors in CSI, minus the Hollywood theatricals and glamour, the students sifted through the scene, locating and documenting every appliance they found. Every suspected culprit was then handed off to an electrical engineer for x-rays who will determine whether there were any faulty parts present.

 

Waynesburg University CSI Students

 

While the students await the news of whether it was a lamp, toaster, computer or an unidentified device that set the house ablaze, Professor Michael Cipoletti, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Forensic Sciences, claims the real-life experience was invaluable.

 

“Although the University is good at providing realistic mock scenes on campus with our Crime Scene Investigation Center, we aren't going to set it on fire,” said Cipoletti. “Here the students got to experience an actual scene under difficult, real conditions, and learn from a professional investigator first-hand.”

 

So next time you find yourself trying to solve the latest crime scene mystery from your couch, think about your future and what you could be doing with your own investigation skills.

 

Are you up for the challenge?

 



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Sarah Markwardt resized 600

With grace and love in her heart, Sarah Markwardt has traveled to Hekima Place, a sanctuary for orphaned girls in Kenya, for one month of every year since 2008. In that time, the girls who call Hekima Place home have grown to cherish their time with the woman who always promises to return.

 

Since graduating from Waynesburg University in May, the Biblical and Ministry Studies (BMS) alumna from Ohio Pyle, Pa., has taken on a new, full-time role within Hekima Place. Dedicating her entire mind, heart and spirit to their mission, Sarah conducts a training program for new volunteers to prepare them for cross-cultural exchange and completes various financial and fundraising tasks in a job created specifically for her.

 

“International service has the potential to be extremely fulfilling to all who participate,” Sarah said. “My goal is to prepare new volunteers to work and travel with open minds, ears and hearts while keeping them informed about politics and other cultural realities in Kenya.”

 

The mission of Hekima Place, to serve the needs of Kenyan girls who are orphaned, primarily by HIV/AIDS, by providing a safe, faith-based, loving home that supports excellence in education and empowerment for their futures, is a mission Sarah has wholeheartedly supported since the moment she met the girls who wanted to love and be loved.

 

Working from her U.S. home to keep her Kenyan home running smoothly, Sarah serves Hekima Place through PULSE, the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience. PULSE, committed to cultivating a community of young servant leaders to transform Pittsburgh, mentors a new generation of urban leaders who understand and appreciate the importance of the city for the world's future. Sarah lives with a cohort of other PULSE participants working to make positive change in Pittsburgh and beyond.

 

“My first trip, I didn't know what to expect,” she said. “Of course, half way across the world, there were plenty of things that were different. But I was struck more by how much was the same. Giggling girls who wanted to be loved, moms working hard, men trying to decide what it means to be a man. Kenyan culture is very different from our own, but people are somehow the same, no matter where they are. So I loved them.”


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