We invite you to watch the video above, or read the transcript below, to learn more about Pierce Hodges '15 and his Mercy Mindset! The interview is conducted by current eighth grade students Daisy B. and Jayden L.
Ann Marie Braca, Principal: We are so excited to present the first edition of our new Mercy Mindset series! In this monthly series, our eighth grade students will introduce our community to an alumni who once sat in your very seats! It will be an amazing opportunity for you to learn directly from our alumni how Mercy can continue to be a foundation and inspiration in your life after graduation.
Today, we welcome Pierce Hodges from Waldron Mercy’s Class of 2015. Pierce is now in his second year in college, majoring in biology, at Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he has held various leadership positions.
Two of our 8th grade students - Daisy and Jayden - will help us learn about Pierce and some highlights from his time at Waldron.
Pierce can give us a glimpse into how his choices about his education and profession have been motivated by mercy - in short, how he approaches his life with a mercy mindset.
Daisy, current eighth grade student: When did you start attending Waldron, and what grade did you start in?
Pierce Hodges, Class of 2015: I attended Waldron from 2006 to 2015, starting in kindergarten with Mrs. Brennen and Ms. Candeloro.
Jayden, current eighth grade student: What is your current profession?
Pierce: I’m a current biology major at Howard University, but I also have a part time job with a partnership between Jefferson Health and Temple Health studying healthcare in the inner city.
Daisy: What high schools and colleges have you attended?
Pierce: I attended The William Penn Charter School in East Falls for grades 9 through 12 and now I’m a sophomore at Howard University.
Jayden: Is there a certain teacher or coach who inspired or influenced you, and how?
Pierce: So there were many, but a couple that come to mind are Ms. Pierce (now Mrs. Stricklan) and Mrs. Hymel. I remember Ms. Pierce because she was always firm, but really caring and really wanted the students to do well. It was a wonderful combination that challenged the students to do their best. It felt like a safe space with her. Mrs. Hymel was special because she took a special interest in me, gave me art lessons. She was very encouraging and always made the art room a place I wanted to go. As I said, there were many, but these two are particularly special to me.
Daisy: Yeah, I understand that. When you think about outreach and service at Waldron, what is one of your favorite memories?
Pierce: There were a lot. But I think the best is when I was in eighth grade. There was a devastating earthquake in Nepal and Waldron allowed me to create a service project that allowed me to raise money for people in Nepal by selling t-shirts and having donation baskets. It was really gratifying, not only for me but the whole school. One of my mom’s employees, her family was back in Nepal at the time living in makeshift tents. They had lost everything and so we were able to make an impact, and it was extremely gratifying. There were many other things, like Hayes Manor and St. Columba’s Shelter... this was really the beginning of outreach in my life.
Jayden: Thank you. How did the Mercy values instilled in you at WMA affect the person you are today?
Pierce: That’s a great question. To this day, I participate in community service activities at Howard University: I did the day of service, I help stock the food pantry regularly, I help clean the garden. I absolutely learned the Mercy values of giving and stewardship at Waldron. Hayes Manor, Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, making pillows and blankets, making hats, Thanksgiving and Christmas drives… all of these opportunities have driven me to continue the work that I do today.
Daisy: That’s super cool. From reading about you, it seems as though you’re very active in the areas of student diversity and leadership. How have the Mercy values instilled at you in WMA aligned with those goals?
Pierce: Leadership and diversity is a very important concept to me. For our society to be the best it can be we have to show love and opportunity to all people no matter their race, creed, gender, or color. Things like equality, respect, and love -- these are all values that were cultivated in my experience at Waldron. We are all God’s children and in some cases in our society, there are some things that have been unfair to certain factions of people, and I make it a point to assist people in all backgrounds to achieve the best they can be. I’m the cofounder and facilitator of the inaugural Cheryl Irving Student Diversity Conference which started back in March of 2019. The goal of this conference was to give high school students in Philadelphia the tools they needed to be ambassadors for community building, sensitivity, and social justice. And so when building the conference, it was the hope that these students would see self in one another and foster an appreciation of racial, gender, and cultural differences. We ended up having more than 150 students from over 15 high schools in the greater Philadelphia area represented. So being given the opportunity to lead a service project like the Nepal project and really working at Waldron -- it all prepared me to lead in diversity and leadership in this way.
Jayden: After your time at Howard University, do you see yourself continuing to become engaged in opportunities that work to spread Mercy, and how?
Pierce: Absolutely, that’s my life’s mission. For instance, what I’m engaged in right now with Jefferson Health and Temple Health. It’s a project that is studying and addressing what’s called healthcare disparities. So what that means is, typically for a number of different reasons, oftentimes minorities are less healthy and have less access to quality healthcare. There are a whole lot of things that go into why that’s the case, but it’s my job to study it and ultimately figure out how to help it. That’s a Mercy mission and it’s the goal that I continue to carry out these efforts.
Daisy: That’s really amazing. So what advice would you give to us students still at WMA?
Pierce: Two things. The first thing is to do your very best. Whatever you’re doing it, do it to the best of your ability. You don’t know it at the time but you’re going to learn more and have more opportunities if you do that. The second thing is to stay the course. Sometimes you want to give up but I can tell you don’t give up. Even if it’s something that you don’t plan to continue, finish what you started. In the words of the great Winston Churchill, “never give up, never give up, never give up.”
Daisy: That’s really great advice, thank you so much.
Jayden: We appreciate that.
Pierce: No problem.
Jayden: Thank a lot Pierce for being here today.
Daisy: Really, thank you.
Pierce: Not a problem, it was my pleasure.
Pierce's Book Suggestions
For the adults, I recommend Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. The author has shared the same narrative in a book for children, and it is called Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge.This author is a renowned African-American author and historian who shares a very contemporary perspective. She is a Philadelphian, and in the future, she may even be available to visit the school. Another book I recommend, as a household reference for both parents and students at this age level is Portraits of African-American Heroes by Tonya Bolden & Ansel Piteairn.