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First-year students reach for new heights

09/03/2014

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The traditional hike up Mount Greylock will happen a few days later this year, as incoming first-year students got things moving in a different way on Labor Day to help them acclimate to life as college students.

According to Deborah Foss, director of MCLA's Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE), while many colleges offer programs on how to survive your first year of college, "At MCLA, our message is, 'Don't just survive, thrive!'"

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The plan this year was to connect with students through three, short CSSE education "funshops," which included plenty of time for discussion in a small setting that made it comfortable for the students to ask lots of questions.

Group leaders kept the pace going as students engaged with staff from student life, admissions and CSSE around the topics of academics, communication and engagement.

"We know the first days and weeks can be overwhelming," Foss said. "Consistent with the mission of CSSE, these interactive sessions took a holistic approach to student success in all facets of college life."

Kate Heekin, assistant director of CSSE, ran academic sessions.

"There were conversations going on, and they raised their hands a lot. The nature of it being in a small classroom with very enthusiastic presenters leading the discussions gave the students what they needed," she said.

"There was a lot of talking, and that's what we wanted. We had some laughs, and I came away from the day so happy about the conversations that took place."

According to Celia Norcross, director of student development, "We wanted to offer an academic and engagement purpose during First Days, and to establish some successful habits prior to classes beginning on Wednesday."

In addition, by delaying the traditional hike up Mount Greylock - the highest point in Massachusetts - until this Sunday, Sept. 7, the rest of the student body has an opportunity to take part in this annual activity, as well.

"This allows upperclassmen - many of whom asked to be included in these First Day events - to participate, along with the new students," Norcross said.

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In past years, while some students hiked the mountain, others opted to volunteer for various service projects throughout the community. This year, MCLA kicked off a two-week long 9/11 Community Service Necessities Drive, to collect household and personal care items for local and homeless veterans in need.

Next month, the entire student body will have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves for some community service work, during MCLA's annual Fall Day of Service. As a result, Norcross expects a greater number of students to give back on this day, organized in collaboration with the City of North Adams and area organizations.

"It's really bridging a sense of community across the campus with these major, traditional events, rather than just keeping it to one group of students," Norcross said. "We're embracing all of the First Days components for the larger campus community."

In addition, the annual art crawl that has happened on past Labor Days throughout downtown North Adams will be held on Thursday, Sept. 25, in conjunction with the September DownStreet Art celebration.