Throughout the academic year, students from Merrimack’s Austin Scholars program participate in weekly visits to a number of local community partners. When social distancing and stay-at-home advisories made these visits impossible, students in the program turned to video as a way to still stay present in the lives of the people they serve.
Austin Scholars came up with the idea of creating a collaborative video rosary to share online with all of their service sites. D’Youville Life & Wellness Community, a nursing home in Lowell, was especially in their thoughts since many of the residents they visited said the rosary daily but could no longer attend Mass.
“We knew this would be a massive project involving many people,” Senoff said. “But we were determined to make a great video. We saw it as a way to keep our community together.”
To lay the groundwork for the project, Senoff created a spreadsheet where he added each prayer in the rosary and assigned it to an Austin Scholar peer. Students recorded their parts of the prayer at home and sent the clips back to Senoff and Giggey who produced and edited the final video. Sr. Jeanne Gribaudo, C.S.J. who leads the Austin Scholars program, participated in the video along with 66 students.
“The current public health crisis prevents us from serving our community partners in person,” Giggey said. “But this allows us to still be of service and stay connected. They are seeing familiar faces in our videos which is important to us.”
The video was uploaded to the Austin Scholars YouTube channel and shared with community partners by Mary McHugh, executive director of civic and community engagement in the Stevens Service Learning Center at Merrimack.
“I’m amazed at the students’ willingness to think beyond themselves,” McHugh said.
Encouraged by the success of the rosary video, Austin Scholars continue to add interactive and educational videos to their YouTube library. They have added readings of children’s books, yoga and origami instruction, cooking lessons and more. These are geared to the audiences of some of their other community partners like Lawrence Catholic Academy, St. Louis School, Hands to Help and St. Monica School.
“We want people to know that even though we can’t see them right now, we are thinking of them and miss them,” Senoff said.
Students in the Austin Scholars program take part in traditional learning, reflection and weekly service in Merrimack’s neighboring communities. The program is the oldest existing living-learning community at Merrimack College.