Gathering in the back of Marist’s largest freshman dorm, Champagnat Hall, current students made up of Ambassadors, members of Campus Ministry, and the entire Football team received their schedules for the day. Behind Leo Hall, student athletes from the Crew, Track, and Swimming teams prepared their assembly line up the building’s seven flights of stairs. The Dining Hall staff began prep and set up for the barbecue on the campus green, while other campus offices also prepared to welcome the Class of 2019. The students would not arrive for another couple of hours, but at 6:30am on the day of Freshman Move-In, Marist’s campus was already bustling and preparing for the newest Red Foxes.
As the students arrived in the morning, I was standing at the registration table in front of a freshman residence hall, staring in awe at the pure excitement on the faces of these incoming freshmen students, remembering myself three years earlier with the nervous tremble in my voice and fearing the uncertainty of a new place. How is it, I wondered to myself, that these freshmen seemed so excited and so calm? And then I thought, well, that, must mean we’re doing something right.
Halfway through the move-in, I visited the basement of our largest freshman residence hall, where the halls were lined with trunks, storage bins and miniature refrigerators, while groups of volunteers yelled out floor numbers to send up the elevator; a chaotic, but exciting scene. Catherine, a senior and a member of the Marist Ambassadors, has volunteered for freshman move-in every year since her sophomore year. “When I moved in my freshman year, I didn’t really know how my stuff got from the car to my dorm room—I thought it must have been magic or something. However, when I volunteered my sophomore year, I realized it wasn’t magic. It was a team of Marist students actually moving the freshmen in — and in so many ways, that is so much better,” she said, between moving boxes into a narrow elevator. Her partner for elevator duty, junior Ambassador Greg, who echoed her statements, “This day is just a great way to make even more friends at Marist. You’re meeting new people, getting to know them, all while helping move in the incoming class. That’s just awesome.”
Perhaps my favorite part of the day was speaking to so many excited families. The Larkins, a family of five from Long Island, was moving their daughter Kathleen into what would become her home away from home. Mrs. Larkin fought back tears as Kathleen’s brothers clung to her side. “He tried to hide under her bed so we would just leave him here,” she said of Kathleen’s youngest brother. “There is an incredible number of students that help out,” Mr. Larkin noted. “That really just speaks volumes. It’s just a sea of red Marist volunteer shirts – everywhere you look.” We talked about creative writing, the impressive list of Welcome Week events, and how easy move-in day was… and then they headed for a final Bed, Bath & Beyond trip.
Another family, moving their son in, laughed at the thought of having to carry their son’s things up eight flights of stairs. “When we moved my son in decades ago at a school in Maryland, they didn’t have elevators, and my husband and I had to climb the thirteen flights to his room so many times we lost count. I’ve moved in a lot of kids, and this was by the far the easiest one.”
It was not the accolades from all the thankful new families who had moved in that day that motivated Marist volunteers; instead, for each of them it was because they too had once been the newest members and had appreciated the care and help experienced during move-in. With a 10 hour day under their belts, the volunteers could rest well that night, knowing they did good work for their fellow Red Foxes and had made all the difference in someone’s first day.
“I loved being a part of this day,” Catherine said. “Moving in is stressful enough – you’re already worrying about making friends and whether you’re going to do well in your classes. It is so comforting to know you already have people supporting you and ‘physically’ lifting the stress off your shoulders and out of your hands.”
This in and of itself is what makes Freshman Move-In Day the act of magic that it is: a student body coming together to help the incoming class’ transition go a bit more smoothly. Maybe it wasn’t so-called magic that moved your stuff from the parking lot to the door of your dorm room, but it was the work of a wonderful little thing we like to call the Red Fox Family. Behind it all, there were countless numbers of supplies and resources that went into Move-In Day, but the most important, was the caring touch of the volunteers that dedicated their day to the Class of 2019.