First-year students launched their college careers by learning about their new community and discovering more about themselves through participating in three First Days activities that have become a tradition at MCLA.
For the 18th time, a group of MCLA freshmen hiked Mt. Greylock as they bonded with each other, faculty and staff.
"The theory is, if they can hike a mountain their first day of college, imagine what they can do in four years. It's also a time to connect with peers and faculty on the way up, but really, it's a time of personal challenge. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach the top. It gets them ready for the rest of their college career," explained Celia Norcross, director of student development.
Other students participated in an art crawl, where they were introduced to the local arts world and met area artists and cultural leaders. A third group discovered what it means to give back as they volunteered at one of nine area service sites.
"The three target areas are what the Berkshires are all about - the arts, the outdoors and service," Norcross said.
The activities introduce first-year students to college life as they transition to their MCLA experience.
"It's a way to introduce them to their new community, and it's infused with programs that are both social and academic, so that the students' learning ability is heightened," Norcross said.
In total, more than 450 freshmen converged upon the Berkshires on Labor Day. In addition to the hike, some 70 students brought their diverse experience and talents to a variety of efforts, which included clean-up projects at Windsor Lake and the North Adams Heritage Museum, work on a Habitat for Humanity home and at some community gardens - including MCLA's garden.
Together, the students put in nearly 300 hours of service.
Many of the students had such a good experience that they expressed their desire to continue volunteering over the next four years, said Spencer Moser, coordinator of the Center for Service and Citizenship. For example, those interested in a career in education enjoyed the first-hand experience they received by helping educators at a nearby school get ready for their own first day of class.
"As I stopped at all of the sites, they were engaged and interested in what they were doing. They felt really satisfied and good about the good they did. It's important to start them out doing service because civic engagement and the public liberal arts education go hand in hand," Moser said. "The service piece is connected to the classroom piece, and the two elevate each other.
"At MCLA, by the second day they are here, we not only say that's what we do, a big percentage of them already are doing it," Moser continued. "Having students participate in service in the community allows us to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. They see that we're serious about it, that it's important. This is the way it's done here."