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The Pittsburgh Project's purpose to develop servant leaders and uphold the dignity of vulnerable homeowners has much in common with Waynesburg University's mission of educating students through faith, learning and serving.

For several years, Waynesburg University has worked to build a partnership with The Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit community development organization committed to meeting the needs of the Pittsburgh community. Each semester, Waynesburg students are given the opportunity to serve extensively with The Project in programs such as tutoring, work camps and community garden.

“The Pittsburgh Project is striving to provide for its community through education and home improvements for the elderly, widows and those with disabilities who fall 150 percent below the poverty level,” said Sarah Brandstetter, coordinator of Waynesburg University's Bonner Scholar Program.

This year, five Waynesburg students and a recent alumnus are dedicating their summers to the cause, serving as worksite liaisons from the beginning of June to mid-August.

Those working with The Project include: Kimber Blair, a junior interactive design major from New Castle, Pa; Darartu Boyer, a senior early childhood education major from Columbia, Pa; Ethan Hacker, a junior biblical ministry studies (children and youth) major from Butler, Pa; Blake McCarty, a sophomore business management major from Frisco, Tx; Esteban Saldi a 2012 human services alumnus from La Paz, Bolivia and Steven Snow, a sophomore criminal justice administration major from Butler, Pa.

“I decided to serve at the Pittsburgh Project this summer so that I could minister to people in my home city,” Hacker said. “I like working hands on and doing labor. I am excited to work with the homeowners and other groups to make the city a little bit better every day.”

Dave Calvario, Director of the Center for Service Leadership, and Brandstetter have worked alongside students within The Project throughout the years and regularly encourage students to take the next step when it comes to serving others.

“Sarah Brandstetter and Dave Calvario have always been supportive and influential in my life, and they are the ones who helped me decide to work with The Project my first summer,” Blair said.

Proud to be part of an organization that has genuine interest in the people of Pittsburgh, Blair reflected on how God has opened her eyes to the need in the area.

“There's a need to care for vulnerable, sometimes neglected, homeowners who are unable to continue the upkeep on their own homes,” she said. “There is a need for positive influences in the lives of the youth. There is a need for reconciliation between gangs and other groups.”

With all of the need in the Pittsburgh area, and around the world, there is an even bigger need for individuals like these Waynesburg students and alumnus who have given their summers in order to serve God and make a difference for those around them.

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For three months this summer, Brittany Walton will take her passion for service to an unfamiliar environment. The junior biblical ministry studies major will learn the challenges and blessings of an urban environment, will serve alongside diverse groups of students, and will share her faith with people from around the country.

A desire to help others recognize God's calling for their lives led Brittany Walton to the Center for Student Missions (CSM). Brittany will join with the staff of the CSM San Francisco site as a city host this summer. As a city host, Brittany, a Waynesburg, Pa., native, will guide groups through Oakland, Calif., and introduce them to diverse service opportunities including sites that deal with poverty, gang violence, drugs and prostitution.

“Only when we try to understand the lost and broken, can we truly help them. After all, we are all broken, formerly lost people ourselves,” Brittany said. “CSM encourages the people who serve with them to give up former biases about the people who live in the city, and to love them despite their brokenness.”

CSM, a Christian organization that hosts week-long urban mission trips for high school and college groups across the nation, hires young people based on leadership skills, a desire to serve God and enthusiasm for service.

“CSM is important to me because the ministry focuses on the issues that are found in the heart of major cities and strives to love those who live lives of judgment,” she said. “It encourages the adolescents who serve with CSM to really get to know the individuals of the city, whether it be a homeless man sitting on the street, or a child who has known nothing but a life of drugs and abuse.”

A desire to spend her summer serving others led Brittany to contact the director of San Francisco's CSM location to arrange an interview via Skype. After surviving the preliminary application and interview process, Brittany was asked by CSM staff to visit a CSM location for a face-to-face interview.

“I could have chosen Philadelphia, Pa., which is the closest site to Waynesburg, but I really wanted to show them that I was very serious about this internship. I saved up some money and sold my laptop for a plane ticket to San Francisco during Thanksgiving break,” Brittany said. “I shadowed the city hosts to gain a better understanding of what they did, and I had a face-to-face interview with the CSM director at an Ethiopian restaurant in the city.”

Needless to say, Brittany's visible desire to serve San Francisco through CSM earned her a position as one of five city hosts. She anticipates the challenges of working with an urban ministry to not be much different than her service in Waynesburg, Pa.

“My heart breaks often in Waynesburg when I see the devastating issues that Greene County faces daily, so I know that a big city such as San Francisco will break my heart substantially,” she said. “But I am at peace with that, because I want my heart to break for what breaks God's heart. It is that brokenness that allows us to do amazing things for Him.”

Her faith and service-related activities and leadership roles as a student at Waynesburg University have shaped Brittany's desire to serve with CSM this summer. On campus, Brittany leads a prayer ministry called Selah and serves as the Praise and Worship Coordinator for Adelpha, a Christian leadership sisterhood created to encourage women on campus in their faith.

“Without Waynesburg University and its ministries, I'm not sure that I would even be a Christian,” she said. “With the help of Upper Room, Chapel, Selah and Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) staff and mentors on campus, I accepted the precious gift of salvation and gained the desire to work with children and youth.”

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