Pittsburgh -- Helping others in need -- it’s a virtue that Robert Morris University values, and one that it fosters among its students, faculty, and staff.
One of the many ways that RMU gives back to the community is through its collaboration with the United Way of Allegheny County. Each year, the university holds a campaign to help raise funds for the United Way. Last year, RMU raised more than $29,000. The 2009 campaign is set to kickoff on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Halloween Happy Hour in the Rudolph Family Gardens/Massey Hall on the Moon Township campus, and this year RMU hopes to raise $35,000 to help those less fortunate in the community.
Over the years, dozens of RMU students, faculty, and staff have volunteered their time to various United Way causes. Kate Gatto, an RMU financial aid counselor, first became involved with the United Way through Gwen’s Girls – an agency that works with troubled young women and girls to give them a better quality of life. “Seeing how that money is used and how it helps made me want to get involved,” says Gatto. “It’s a wonderful group home for pregnant teens, and it’s a place where these high school kids can get their food, their winter coats, their shoes, and their diapers.”
“The United Way helps everybody change the world,” says Paul Spradley, assistant director of student life for multicultural affairs. “My passion is helping at-risk youth, particularly African-American males. The United Way has program where, if you give to their general fund, the money is filtered into youth violence prevention programs that work with inner-city kids in Pittsburgh. But the United Way is so broad that many of us can channel through it to make a difference in the cause we care about the most.”
RMU believes that learning takes place outside the classroom, too. That’s why it provides students various community service and outreach opportunities each academic year, all of which encourage students to reach out and help others, implement knowledge and skills learned in the classroom, and further develop their leadership abilities.
In the fall 2008 term, 838 students donated 3,380 hours of service through 59 different projects, which included on-campus blood drives, preparing and serving meals at Light of Life Rescue Mission, assisting elderly residents with yard work, and building homes with Habitat for Humanity.
One of RMU’s largest service collaborations is with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Greater Pittsburgh and the Felician Sisters. Last spring, more than 30 RMU men and women volunteered with BBBS each week at the Mooncrest After School Program, a mentoring program for children in a local neighborhood that is home to hundreds of low-income families.
RMU’s collaboration with BBBS is just one of many ways the university is reaching out to area youths. The past two years the Corporation for National and Community Service has named RMU to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts and service to disadvantaged youth. It’s the highest federal recognition a school can receive for such service.
In addition to its direct contributions to the United Way, RMU also has many partnerships with various United Way impact fund agencies:
• This past summer, Andrea Beats, an accounting major, did a 300-hour service experience in the Financial Services Department of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh.
• Through the Community Human Services agency, this fall a group of RMU students will attend a Sleep-In for the Homeless in October at Pittsburgh’s City-County Building, which helps raise awareness and funds to support services for the 1,500 people in Allegheny County facing homelessness.
• This holiday season RMU students will staff kettles in the Moon Township area in collaboration with the Coraopolis Community Development Foundation (CCFD), which leads the Salvation Army efforts in this area.
• Next spring, RMU’s School of Education and Social Sciences will be partnering with Girl Scouts to offer a service-learning course taught by Mary A. Hansen, Ph.D., assistant professor of secondary education and graduate studies. Through this class RMU students will mentor girls in the Cornell School District by delivering Girl Scout curriculum in the classroom.
“We highly value our partnerships with these organizations, which provide Robert Morris students with a variety of opportunities to develop their leadership skills, give back to the community, and which link classroom learning to community engagement,” says Donna A. Fetterman, RMU’s director of student civic engagement.
RMU is in the top 100 of the 700 companies that support the United Way of Allegheny County.
"United Way is our community's health and human service fundraiser," says Maria Hooker, corporate relations manager for United Way of Allegheny County. "RMU's participation brings thousands of charitable dollars to agencies and those who need it into our community each year. The events and pledge drive also supports community awareness for the staff, faculty and students."