Park Scholar Orientation
By Cady Lang '13
A week before Ithaca College’s campus was swarmed with eager freshmen and emotional parents, incoming Park Scholar freshmen gathered together for the first time since their finalist weekend. The occasion? Park Scholar orientation – three days filled with equipping the newest batch of scholars with not only what they will need to survive college, but to be leaders on campus and in the community.
Park Scholar orientation is led by older Park Scholars, ranging from sophomores to seniors, who act as orientation leaders. It provides the incoming freshmen scholars with the opportunity to be more comfortable with the program and the campus before school starts. Integrated Marketing Communications freshman Isabel Balla said that Park Scholar orientation helped her to transition to college because of the unique experiences it provided.
“Park Scholar orientation helped me transition to college because it allowed me to push my limits, meet new people and learn more about myself,” said Balla.
The orientation began with dorm move-in and the annual kick-off barbeque, where Park Scholars of all classes mingled with the Park Scholar class of 2016, their family and Park faculty members. Afterwards, the freshmen participated in ice-breaking activities and group bonding with the older Park Scholars.
The following day, the freshmen Park Scholars had the opportunity to go to Cornell's Hoffman Challenge Course. While the rock climbing wall and zip line were physically challenging, students were also challenged to think critically about leadership and group dynamics. Amid towering trees and intersecting cables, the freshmen related to one another’s experiences as they created new ones, learning to trust one another. Communication Management and Design freshman Megan Goldberg said that her experience at the ropes course helped her to grow closer to her fellow Park Scholars.
“The ropes course was a great bonding experience where we needed to work together to complete the courses,” said Goldberg. “What I really loved was that we all supported each other, especially those who were nervous in the first place.”
Teamwork, listening and the exchange of ideas were all major themes of the day, along with community.
“The ropes course was beneficial because it allowed us as a group to trust each other and get together and conquer our fears,” said Balla.
That night, after a full day of adventures at the ropes course, the freshmen ate dinner at the Park School with the orientation leaders to reflect on the day’s activities and also gave the freshmen the chance to ask any other questions that they had regarding life in college as a Park Scholar. Sophomore Jennifer Jordan, who served as one of the orientation leaders, said that one of the most fulfilling parts of the program was watching the freshman grow closer throughout the program.
“I appreciated having the opportunity to step back and see the bonds of trust and community form between them,” said Jordan. “I couldn't help but feel excited watching them make memories that they will reminisce about with the knowledge that they were constructing a foundation of peers that will help them survive their college years.”
The following day, the scholars attended a workshop about community service with the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars and met with Park Scholar Director Dr. Matthew Fee to discuss the program. As Park Scholar Orientation drew to a close, many of the freshmen believed that their experience was a positive start to the school year. Goldberg appreciated that the Park Scholar Program provides a support system of older scholars who can provide friendship and mentoring.
“Having this connection with older scholars is probably one of the best parts of the PS Program,” said Goldberg. “Not only have they all been through what we're going through now, but they have so many experiences to share with us. It’s the little things like [telling us] which classes to take, books to exchange, connections to clubs at IC...and a friendly wave or smile when we pass each other on campus.”
Communication Management and Design freshman Dominick Recckio gained not only valuable advice and memorable experiences from Park Scholar orientation, but also friendship.
“I got really close to the other scholars and I know we have built lifelong friendships,” said Recckio.