Commonwealth University students return to Jamaica to provide service to the community of Harmons



A team of Commonwealth University students recently returned to the small community of Harmons, Jamaica, along with faculty members, Jennifer Bell, physician assistant studies and Amy Way, health and exercise science. The 18 undergraduate and five physician assistant graduate students represented the Lock Haven, Bloomsburg and Clearfield campuses.

This is the seventh service-learning program to Jamaica for Lock Haven students led by Bell and Way and the second for Commonwealth University.

Students participated in the construction and subsequent dedication of a house, the building of a foundation for a future house, visited the two primary schools in the Harmons valley and visited community health clinics where they had the opportunity to ask questions about the Jamaican healthcare system.

At the schools, the students interacted with the children in the classroom and participated in the application of fluoride varnish, which is an initiative started by Bell and Way for the children of the community. The students offered workshops to the parents as part of a joint initiative with Won By One to Jamaica, a nonprofit organization with which the group collaborates.

Cultural activities included eating in the homes of community members in Harmons and a day at a black sand beach that is part of a fishing community.

Students who participated in the trip were Lock Haven students Gabrielle Bowser, of Lock Haven; Pollyana Canete, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Kaitlyn Collins, of Ringwood, New Jersey; Alexis Frei, of Bryn Mawr; Christian Good, of Muncy; Samantha Grzesik, of Centreville, Maryland; Daniel Guevin, of Pottstown; Jennifer Hess, of Blairs Mills; Alexis Mayes, of Coalport; Caroline Nagle, of Altoona; Rheana Peralta, of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Emma Stouffer, of Hancock, Maryland; Abigail Sutton, of DuBois; Loren Way, of DuBois; and Erin Woods, of North East, Maryland; Clearfield student Addison Plume, of Glen Arm, Maryland; and Bloomsburg students Kevin Dempsey, of Danville; Megan Kovacs, of Rome, Pennsylvania; Laken Laurer, of York; Natalie Page, of State College; Hannah Shriver, of Lewisburg; Samantha Willans, of Whippany, New Jersey; and Delaney Wolf, of Red Lion.

"We have had the privilege of traveling with some exceptional students and we really enjoyed the participation of students from both the Bloomsburg and Lock Haven campuses." Way said. "We look forward to the time when Mansfield students join us as well. Hopefully that will be next winter session."

The Lock Haven and Mansfield admissions offices, as well as the Bloomsburg bookstore, donated hundreds of T-shirts to the program. "We made excellent use of the donated T-shirts and will continue to do so, distributing them throughout the community of Harmons, giving them to people in need," Way said.

"Having heard professors Amy Way and Jennifer Bell describe their experiences in Harmons, Jamaica, plus having seen the pictures of students in previous trips, I can tell that the students' experiences have been transformational and life changing," said Dr. Leo-Felix Jurado, dean, College of Health Professions. "I am certain that the students found their experiences humbling and helped them appreciate how blessed they are living in America. I am profusely appreciative with professors Way and Bell's commitment to this initiative. 

"Congratulations to Dr. Way, professor Bell and the entire team for another successful trip to Harmons, Jamaica, said Bashar W. Hanna, president. "The work our students and faculty do on behalf of the people of Harmons is incredibly impactful - not just for the community they are serving, but also for our students who return from the trip with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the significant health care challenges faced by individuals around the world. Thank you to our dedicated faculty for their willingness to give our students this opportunity for the past seven years, and for making a real difference to people and a community in need."

The next trip is being planned for the 2024 winter session. Students interested in the program can contact Way at for more information.