MCLA

Take a Hike!

New students trek, volunteer off campus


09/09/2009

First-year students at MCLA got their college careers off to a great start Labor Day, when they participated in a hike up Massachusetts' highest peak, a community service project, or a visit to the largest contemporary art museum in the country.

Approximately 190 students and 25 faculty and staff members made the annual trek up Mount Greylock. At 3,491 feet, the mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states.

"Besides it being a tradition, we like the students to have a common experience that prepares them to push their limits and meet their goals throughout the year," says Celia Norcross, director of student development and activities. "We tell them, 'If you can hike a mountain in the first day, think what you can do the rest of the year and throughout your college experience.'"

As the students reached the summit, "They were tired, but they were definitely proud of themselves," says Norcross. "They're amazed by the view and have a real sense of fulfillment and accomplishment."

In addition to the hike, about 50 students visited the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), home of the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective. And, about 75 students participated in community service projects throughout the Northern Berkshires. One group visited with the senior citizens who live at North Adams Commons.

According to Jim Stakenas, vice president of administration and finance, "The students had a tremendous impact on the residents there. They visited with the folks and they gave them hand massages. It was really great for the residents to have someone to talk to."

Other projects included a trip to the Mohawk Forest housing development to do activities with the children who live there, painting bleachers for the City of North Adams at nearby Joe Wolfe Field, helping out at the Western Heritage Museum, and making banners for the city's famous Fall Foliage Parade.

 "And every year they do some wonderful things at the Louison House Family Life Support Center in Adams," says Stakenas. "This year they sorted clothes and straightened things up in the attic. I thought they were wonderfully engaged. Everybody was active. It was great to see a number of students step forward in leadership roles, which I thought was really terrific."

Norcross said that each year students show a high level of interest in the service projects, with the limited number of spots for the various activities filling up quickly.

"When it first started, it was offered as an alternative to hiking, but the last seven years it's had the same purpose as the hike," she explains. "It's for students who are dedicated to service. We wanted to have an additional common experience for students who enjoy engaging in community service and who want to have an impact on their community."