On Friday, Aug. 25, the University of Maine welcomed its largest incoming class yet. More than 2,300 first-year students were greeted to campus with a hearty Maine Hello.
This campus-wide event brings together returning university students, faculty and staff members, and this year, more than 700 people participated. Volunteers greeted first-year students and their families, directed traffic and helped new students move into their dorms.
“There hasn’t been one thing that we’ve had a problem with,” David Jenkins, a parent, said. “People here are great, anytime anyone asks for help, they go out of their way, even with the fact that students help with the move-in.”
This is the third Maine Hello for Rachel Largay, a third-year biology student. The first year, she moved into Penobscot Hall, next year as one of the volunteers and this year as one of 62 resident assistants (RAs) on campus.
“It is great to see it from all perspectives, student, volunteer and an RA. You see everything that is behind the scenes,” Largay said. “When you pull up to your hall your freshmen year, you come in to your room, and all your belongings are there. And now I know how much actually goes into it.”
Largay believes that Maine Hello is a great way for first-year students to get to know their community.
“When I moved in during Maine Hello, my RA was the first person I talked to, and one of the first people who made me feel comfortable. That is really important, because it is tough to get comfortable in a new place, especially as you’re coming straight from high school.”
Fall Welcome Weekend continued the next morning, Aug. 26, with a Welcome Day of Service. First-year students were led on 65 different service projects, both on and off campus. Over 7,000 hours of service were completed in one morning.
“I am always looking for a way to help out other people,” Jeanette Eichelroth, one of the first-year volunteers, said. “It [the Day of Service] was also a great way to get to know other students. Everyone is nice and welcoming, it felt like home, immediately.”
Projects ranged from gardening and area cleaning to meal-packing over 20,000 meals to help feed people in the Penobscot County.
Isaiah Brown, a fourth-year, civil engineering student is a co-coordinator of Alternative Breaks (AB), a nonprofit, student-led organization that promotes community service. He was part of Alternative Breaks for four years, and this year he wanted to share the group’s values to the incoming class of first-years.
“Since AB is a lot about community service, it is a great opportunity to reach out to freshmen,” Brown said. He led first floor Knox Hall residents to Essex woods in Bangor to do trail maintenance.
“A lot of them seemed pretty interested in community service in general,” Brown said. “They worked hard, doing a lot of railing and land clearing. I liked interacting with the new students, it was great to get their perspectives.”
“It was a wonderful day,” Lisa Morin, the coordinator of the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, said. “Students were very excited about what they were doing. This is what we look forward to all summer, when students get here and there is energy around campus. It is a really heartwarming way to kick off the year.”
One of the service projects involved making hygiene kits for Partners for Peace, a nonprofit organization in Bangor that serves people affected by domestic abuse. The kit includes shampoo, toothpaste, washcloths, soap and other hygiene products available for domestic violence victims seeking shelter.
Another project involved making over 500 school kits which will be sent to children in one of the villages of Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
“We want UMaine culture to include being a resource to community and giving back both globally and locally,” Morin said. “New students now understand that this is part of who we are and they can get involved while they are here. Our campus totally supports it.”
Morin and other representatives of Student Life are working together to provide a fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey. An upcoming blood drive on Sept. 12 and 13 will help aid those affected in Houston. For more information, please visit the Bodwell Center’s website at umaine.edu/volunteer or call them at 207-581-3091.