First Year Park Scholar Reflects on Park Scholar Orientation

By: Bethany George, '15

My hands were sweating, my knees were shaking, and my heart was beating in my throat.

“Emily, I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Yes, you can, Bethany, just keep your eyes on the prize!”

Emily LaPierre, a TV-R major from Chazy, New York, stood below me as I ascended a 30-foot telephone pole. Once the climber reached the top, they were supposed to jump off and try to grab one of the four handkerchiefs suspended from a rope four feet away, then free fall until the harness caught you. Nothing says, “Welcome to the Park Scholar Program!” like jumping off a 30-foot pole.

On Aug. 23, all the freshmen Park Scholars moved into their new home. First, we enjoyed a delicious barbeque, and then gathered to play icebreakers. It was a beautiful day but we freshmen were a little apprehensive.

“I was a lot more nervous than I expected,” says Mia O’Brien, a Journalism major from Freehold, New Jersey. “I felt very jittery, but as soon as my parents left I felt fine! I think being a part of the program helped with the overwhelming emotions because I knew I had friends and an upperclassman support group I could depend on.”

Zach Briggs, an Integrated Marketing Communications major from Elma, New York, had similar feelings about saying goodbye to parents. He said, “I appreciated the transitional phase that the orientation offered. Family was encouraged to stay for the beginning part of the day and could spend time with their kid while enjoying the campus. When it came time for family to leave, I felt like I had plenty of time with my family and was ready to begin the college experience on my own.”

The next day featured more icebreaking activities with some of the older Park Scholars, as well as group activities with the other freshman. That’s when I started to realize how many similarities I shared with this new family. Even though we all came from different places, and had different ideas, we all bonded easily through our complementing personal qualities, and passions.

I wasn’t the only freshman who felt this way. Maya Cueva, a Documentary Studies major from Berkeley, California said, “At first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make connections between Ithaca and Berkeley, but after Park Scholar orientation, I felt more at home because there were people who shared similar interests as me. I felt like I was a part of a community that would help me accomplish my goals in media.”

The following day, we boarded on to a bus and traveled to the Cornell Team & Leadership Center ropes course. Among the trees we began to trust each other at a whole new extreme. Whether it was climbing up lofty poles, or walking across suspended logs, solo or with a partner, there was never a time when I felt like I couldn’t trust another Park Scholar.
At the end of orientation, the incoming freshmen had a new confidence about the upcoming school year.

“Although I knew the other freshmen already, Park Scholar Orientation allowed me to grow closer to these individuals and formulate lasting friendships with upperclassman,” said Kenneth Robertson, a Film, Photography, and Visual Arts major from Fair Haven, New Jersey.

In all, Park Scholar orientation made me excited to begin my college experience, especially as a Park Scholar.


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