MSM Junior Service Learning Program named Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group finalist

“Let charity then be our badge of honor…so that it may truly be said, there is in us but one heart and one soul in God.” – Catherine McAuley, Sisters of Mercy foundress


Mount St. Mary Academy’s acclaimed Junior Service Learning Program was honored as one of three finalists for the 2021 Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Arkansas Chapter during its National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock. ACCESS, a longtime partner with the service program, nominated the school for the honor.


“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to nominate Mount St. Mary Academy’s Junior Service Learning Program for this award,” Suzanne Carter, assistant director of early childhood at ACCESS, said. “Our longest-running volunteer program, this partnership has enabled ACCESS to further its mission and exposes these volunteers to a variety of possible career opportunities for their futures. We hope this nomination brings awareness to the philanthropic and service-oriented spirit instilled in and shared by the students at Mount St. Mary Academy.”


Each year during their theology class periods, juniors at Mount St. Mary Academy collectively devote thousands of service hours volunteering at more than 20 community organizations across central Arkansas, from hospitals and hospice care facilities to schools and nursing homes. This academic year, seniors have also been participating in the service learning program since they were unable to do so last year due to pandemic-related restrictions.


“We look forward to having these students on campus each semester,” Carter said. “They are always joyful and eager to learn. As a teacher, volunteers help us better reach our students and give them the skills they need to expand their potential.”


The honor is a testament to the impact of Mount St. Mary Academy’s Catholic foundation and traditions of service and mercy, which have inspired young women to make a difference in their communities for 170 years.


“We want to thank ACCESS for the nomination and our long-standing volunteer partnership,” Lauren Lawrence, theology teacher and Junior Service Learning Program coordinator, said. “Having the ability to model Catherine McAuley’s true mission of service through our Junior Service Learning Program gives our girls firsthand experience in learning how to put their own wants and needs aside to focus on others. Being nominated for this award reinforces the positive change our girls make in our community.”


Buff Easterly, who also teaches theology at Mount St. Mary Academy and is overseeing the seniors’ volunteer efforts this year, echoed her colleague’s sentiments. “Mount was founded by the Sisters of Mercy, who were nicknamed the ‘Walking Sisters’ because they went out into their communities to feed the hungry, care for the sick and provide education. Mount St. Mary Academy has stayed true to that mission, and we are proud to be recognized for our efforts.”


According to the AFP Arkansas Chapter’s website, “National Philanthropy Day is a special day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the impact of philanthropy in the world around us. It’s a day to honor those people active in the philanthropic community who have made our lives, our communities, and our world a better place.”


Read more about all three of this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Youth Group finalists here.


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.