“Women who make a difference”


Students help cut down harmful plants to help maintain the St. Joes’ Ann Arbor prairie during their Mercy Make a Difference Day trip. Photo by Caitlin Flynn

“My dad always had a motto whenever we went camping,” said Associate Principal of Academic Affairs Ms. Colleen McMaster to a room chock-full of bright yellow t-shirts and lots of energy. “Our motto was to leave every campsite better and cleaner than when we got there—do that today.”

Mercy High School’s seventh annual Make a Difference Day took place on Oct. 2, a day when not only every student in the building dedicates themselves to a day of service, but all staff participate as well.

“Service to me is to get my hands dirty,” said service coordinator Ms. Judi Dennis. “It is to see my principal out there working, to see my president out there working, and to know everyone in this building is being the hands of God to someone.”

When Ms. Dennis joined Mercy’s pastoral ministry in 2007, she fell in love with Mercy High School and everyone within its brightly colored walls. In her first few years, she looked around at other Catholic schools’ service programs and knew she wanted to enhance Mercy’s program as well.

Ms. Dennis teamed up with Ms. McMaster and planned what Mercy Make a Difference Day is today. They envisioned people in the entire building — staff and students –working towards the greater good. They wanted a day where Mercy devoted themselves to kindness. By 2013, Mercy Make a Difference Day was underway. Every adviser group was given a mission to go to different locations in need of service. It quickly became much more than one day of service, but a pillar in Mercy tradition.

“It is such an important day but it is also fun,” said sophomore Grace O’Dea. “It is great to get out of the classroom and do something that will mean something to people.”

Mercy students and staff disperse throughout the local Detroit area, lending their hands to pregnancy centers, farms, elementary schools, churches, retreat centers, etc. Each group is given four hours allotted for travel and work to be done, and nearly every second is used.

“We got a lot of work done in such a small window of time,” said operations manager Rick Rigutto at St. Joes’ The Farm. “I could not get that amount of work done with eight people in four hours, so this was such a big help.”