When Mariah Iapicco, class of 2013, began her studies in Georgian Court University, Lakewood, she brought certain expectations along with her.
The Lincroft resident and member of St. Leo the Great Parish there, said she expected that when she graduated, she’d move back to the comfortable home she shared with her parents, Debbie and Jeff, sister Dominique and brother Jason and get a job teaching math at an area high school.
Before freshman year ended, however, faith began intervening in the form of service projects that captured her interest and imagination. By senior year, Iapicco had set her cap on a year of volunteering with the Mercy Corps. She’ll be teaching math but not in a New Jersey school. Instead, she’ll be teaching young people in one of American Catholicism’s most well known and highly regarded institutions: St. Michael Indian School, founded by St. Katharine Drexel in Arizona in 1902.
Iapicco, who graduated from the Lakewood institution May 23, said that though her decision wasn’t final until senior year, “a couple of things happened in freshman year” that got her thinking about a possible year of service after college.
“In freshman year, I went on break to (Biloxi) Mississippi to help on Hurricane Katrina recovery,” she said. Iapicco, who began serving her parish in fourth grade as an altar server, went on to volunteer her time with religious education and was active in service projects with the CYO from middle school through high school.
In Biloxi, she worked with other service volunteers from Georgian Court learning to raise a house up higher so that if a hurricane did come again, the structure would be at less risk.
“The people in Biloxi told us stories of how hard they’d had to struggle after the storm and hearing them made me realize how important it is to give service,” said Iapicco.
Throughout her years in Georgian Court, she continued to be of service, as a reader at liturgies, volunteering with ARC of Monmouth and working on drives to bring the residents of Tent City – a homeless encampment in Lakewood – food and clothing.
As a freshman, sophomore and junior, she also served on the student government as class treasurer and, in junior year, on the executive board.
Throughout those years, she also realized “how privileged I was to have two loving parents to support me all the way through college. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood. Not that we had everything we wanted, but from what I saw, we were so much better off than how a lot of other people live,” said Iapicco who received the prestigious Julia Blake Alumnae Award presented to the senior who has best displayed outstanding loyalty and service during her years at GCU.
“At the beginning of my senior year, I realized that I wanted to enter into a volunteer program to give back so much that has been given to me,” Iapicco said.
She contemplated Mercy Volunteer Corps, about which she’d heard when a 2011 GCU grad, Brynn Walzer, applied and was accepted. “She told me how much she enjoyed it and how much it impacted her and made her realize how much of an impact she could have on other people. “When I realized teaching was an option, I was very interested,” Iapicco recalled.
“Then, GCU Provost Evelyn Quinn had a Mercy Volunteer Corps representative come and speak to the students – specifically the Mercy Collegiate Society – about the full-time, lay volunteer program which offers placements in poor or marginalized areas of the continental U.S. and Guyana for one of two years.”
Volunteers serve in education, health care and social services. They live simply and in community and have the opportunity to commit to personal and communal spiritual growth.
That presentation inspired her to the point of applying, Iapicco said.
“I realized “that presentation inspired me and made me want to apply,” Iapicco said.
She was thrilled to learn that she’d not only been accepted as a volunteer but that she would be teaching in math in St. Michael’s.
“I will be living on the reservation, so I will be a part of the community,” added Iapicco.
“I went on the web site and fell in love with the school,” said Iapicco. “I want to help the kids from there have an even more privileged whole life.”