Thursday, August 16, 2012

A long-standing tradition at Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College, Welcome Weekend is designed to provide incoming freshmen with the information they need to start their college experience moving in the right direction. Leading that charge is the team of more than 70 Freshman Counselors who today, Aug. 16, prepare to welcome hundreds of new students and their families as they begin their college journey.

Laurie Johnston, Director of Student Activities, said volunteer efforts from Freshman Counselors are to credit for the success of Welcome Weekend for the past two decades. 

“These exceptional upper classmen peer counselors bring their own memories and challenges of their freshmen year experiences to play as they welcome the new students to campus each year,” Johnston said. “While we do have professional staff working with the freshmen throughout the four days before school begins, it truly is the guidance, new friendship, advice and leadership that the freshmen counselors provide to the freshmen that make the beginning of the first year experience at FSU and Pierpont so successful.”

Freshman Counselors are student volunteers who undergo training at a retreat at Jackson’s Mill in the week before classes begin to become peer counselors. These students are willing to go the distance to ensure that new students are adjusting positively to campus. Coming to college can be a very stressful time. The first smiling faces the freshmen see are the Freshman Counselors. As new students and their families drive to the residence halls and begin unloading their vehicles, the counselors welcome them and help carry their belongings to their rooms. Throughout Welcome Weekend, the Freshman Counselors wear brightly colored T-shirts and name badges so they are easy to find.

“I remember as a freshman being overwhelmed and shocked to see students help me move my possessions to my room in Bryant Place,” said 2012-2013 Freshman Counselor Michael White. “I remember thinking there must be a catch but there never was. They were doing it because they cared about me before they even knew me.”

The role of a freshman counselor is not only to be a mentor, but also to be a friend. One of a Freshman Counselor’s most important roles is to remind the freshmen that they have made the right choice in coming to FSU or Pierpont. For individuals who are scared or uncertain, a simple smile or high five can ease worries.

White recalls: “As a freshman, I had a horrible time adjusting and was homesick before I ever backed out of my driveway. The only thing that kept me going was the upbeat and up-front Freshman Counselors. When I wanted to stay in my room and cry, they convinced me to go to an event. When I would eat by myself, one of the Counselors would come eat with me. I was not allowed to tear myself down because all of the Freshman Counselors were building me up. I am forever grateful for everything that Welcome Weekend imparted to me. I am now a senior and an executive officer in two campus organizations and involved in many things across campus. I am happy to say that many of the Freshman Counselors who helped me adjust to campus are still some of my closest and dearest friends.”

After White’s experience, he said he wanted to get involved.

“My first year, I was really nervous because I didn’t know if I could have the same impact that others had on me. But after assisting family and students move into their residence halls, I began to notice just how important the Freshman Counselor's roles are on this campus. By offering a hand, we were putting new students and their families at ease. We were reassuring their decision in coming to Fairmont State or Pierpont, and I knew that I was putting their stresses at ease and inevitably making their lives better. I was becoming what so many became before me.”

To learn more about Welcome Weekend activities please click here.

Share your Welcome Weekend story and photos with us at befirst@fairmontstate.edu.