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First Person Experience: Orientation Week Leaders inspire new students

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Joshua Bay
News Editor

As I woke up at the peak of sunrise, body aching from the day before, I still managed to get up rather perky because I knew Community Engagement Day was only a couple hours away.

From feeding the homeless to harvesting food at a local garden, this orientation week event gave all incoming freshmen and transfer students an opportunity to engage in a service project with one of the University of La Verne’s partnering community-based organizations.

Although this event marks one of my last obligations as an Orientation Week Leader, or OWL, I could not help but smile from ear-to-ear.

As a freshman only a year ago, Community Engagement Day changed my perspective as a college student, a friend and a person.

Having always been a self-reliant person, it was rather refreshing to be exposed to situations where I humanly could not take care of everything myself.

The importance of trust and teamwork later became the catalyst for my success as a leader on campus so early in my college career.

This learning experience made me smile from ear-to-ear because I was now able to nurture that same mindset into the freshmen in my FLEX, or Freshman Learning Experience, group that I had mentored throughout orientation week.

My day began when I arrived at La Verne promptly at 7 a.m. Aug. 27.

I checked-in in front of the Hanawalt House where one of the volunteers at the event guided me to the back where I could find all the materials I needed for the service project I was assigned.

Shocked, I could not help but stare at the three digging shovels next to a bag with my name on it.

Although I was informed where I was going prior to the event, I did not realize I would be needing such hefty equipment.

Joking with my FLEX group about being too pretty to do yard work, I made sure to put a positive spin on it because I did not want to ruin their experience before it even began.

We arrived by charter bus to Huerta Del Valle, a community garden in Ontario, around 9 a.m. with three other FLEX groups.

Before entering, we were given a heartwarming lecture by a Spanish-speaking woman who initially began the community garden as a means of feeding her children more organic fruits and vegetables.

We were later split up between those who wanted to remove weeds from the garden and those who wanted to help set up a wedding happening later that night in the garden.

Being a detail-oriented public relations major who hates getting dirty, I immediately chose to set up for the wedding, but the rest of my FLEX group chose to remove weeds.

Although I was sad that I could not experience this day with them, that same smile from ear-to-ear stayed in place for throughout the day one of the students in my FLEX group periodically text messaged me photos of them all participating and picking weeds together.

Once the event came to a close, my FLEX group returned to the charter bus with smiles like the one I had before the event even started.

Their excitement showed me that they were not only my FLEX group, but also friends.

My goal as an OWL was to ensure that the freshmen in my FLEX group felt included and remembered, for their budding college career cannot be accomplished successfully without the support of those who care about their well-being.

After seeing them enjoy this event together, it assured me that they are developing that support system I made an earnest effort to instill in them when we first met.

Joshua Bay can be reached at joshua.bay@laverne.edu.

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