by Joe Sherard
It all started at the conclusion of daycare, I was fixed to enter kindergarten and begin my education journey; however, little did I know that a small little after school program would play an essential role in my upbringing for the next 9 years, and leave me with a mark of maturity and thoughtfulness that would reflect in my character to this very day.
The first day I went there, the person who instantly stood out to me, and made herself known was Ms. McCall. Even at a young age she gave off the impression that she was firm when it came to instructions, whether it involved lining up straight in line, being quiet and respectful when it came time to pray, walking us to school, and even when it came time for occasional discipline. She even went as far as letting us know that if we go out on trips to the pool and we don’t have swim wear then we are not swimming, no if’s, ands or buts about it! In that sense she gave off a grandmother type of vibe, in how much effort she put forth to care for us all, and making sure we behave. I can honestly admit that between the periods of kindergarten and 3 grade I didn’t realize the full extent of what she, and other staff members like Ms. Williams, and Sister Margery (just to name a few) were doing until the following summer.
It’s also worth noting that I also was a participant of their summer camp (In which they hold every summer from late June until the third week of August) from the time of 1st grade, all the way up to the summer in which I was starting my High School education. Eventually there came a time where I had to stop going to the after school program as a result of me moving, but never the less I still went to the summer camp.
During the first couple of years in summer camp, I of course had a good number of incidents occur, that were all pretty much the result of my misbehavior. Of course all of them taught me a valuable lesson in various ways. The one that sticks out to me the most in my mind is the Summer of 03, where on one particular day during our stay at a pool in the middle of a field trip, I had acted out and bit another kid for no good reason. The staff of course showed no hesitation in putting me in my place not long after that, and rightfully so since I knew I had it coming. This humbled me in a way, which I didn’t fully realize until a couple of months later, and it was preparing me to grow into a respectful young adult.
As the summer camps of 04, 05, and 06 came and went, I saw that I was the oldest out of the majority of the kids that were there and how more and more I had to be an example of maturity, being that I had been there so long and at that point I should know better. I found myself giving kids advice from time to time, further confirming how I really am growing up into a young man. As the days, months, and years wore on, it dawned on me the impact Project Mercy and all its participants have had on me from the time I first walked in that door. Sister Margery and Mrs. McCall had made it known that I have been one of their longest members at that time, and I felt a little honored within myself knowing that fact, and I know without a doubt that my parents are grateful.
With all that being said, to say I truly appreciate the role Project Mercy had in the young, naïve stages of my life would pretty much be an understatement. As of today I am now in my 3rd year at Community College of Philadelphia, studying Construction Management, and some of the little basic lessons I learned from Mercy help get me through a good number of situations. I can only pray that the kids who are there now, sitting where I once was, can learn to appreciate you all and recognize the blessing that is being performed on them, as it was for me. Even today I still sit back and reflect on the memories I have of my time there, and how glad I am that my parents put me there knowing that at first I wouldn’t understand the significance thereof until I was older. I truly thank Mercy and all that it has done for me and wish it nothing but the best today and in the future.
Joe Lewis Sherard IV