Monday, August 27, 2012

Orientation 2012

This past weekend, Saint Michael's College welcomed the incoming class of 2016 to it's campus. And at SMC, we don't just welcome new students. We usher them in with moving crews, loud whistles, smelly O-Leader t-shirts, and the best orientation weekend around.

So a week ago today, all of us student orientation leaders returned early to campus to move in and begin training before the big weekend. I had been staying in Burlington, so I made it to campus basically about as early as you could arrive, moved in, and dove headfirst into O-week. At first it was kind of weird to be back on campus, because besides the athletes, RA's and some others, it was mostly empty. Also, I missed the Alliot hours, so my first meal consisted of cereal, mac'n'cheese and cookies. Yep.

My O-Partner, Halle, and I.*
But then training began, and it was nice to see all the other o leaders and get pumped for the week. Training lasted from Monday until Wednesday, and like most awesome things, it flew. Besides the aspects that were concentrated solely on the incoming students, we also got to have some fun: like going on a boat cruise, bowling, seeing The Campaign, and overall just hanging out with each other. Then Thursday morning rolled around, and it all began.

Ask any student at SMC about move-in day freshman year, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has forgotten it. When the new students arrive on campus that first morning and pull up to their hall, their cars are promptly SWARMED by over-caffeinated upperclassmen who want nothing more than to carry their heaviest items to their rooms on the fourth floor. But seriously. O-leaders have a contest to see who can carry the most fridges. The record is in the eighties.

After move-in, the O-leaders have a few-hour break to relax and take a breather, and the freshman have time to decompress and try and get the sound of whistles out of their heads. Then that evening, we reconvene for the BBQ and convocation, after which any remaining parents will usually depart. Then, that night, we have the Fun-for-All, which is an activity night in the gym where the O-leaders dress up in themed costumes (this year the theme was KNIGHTS of the Nineties, and my O-partner, Halle, and I were the Olsen twins, modern day), and we do trust activities and such. It gets a good turn out, and I think it's lots of fun.

The rest of the weekend consists of more events, like the Friday night dance, and the Hypnotist show on Saturday, as well as academic things such as writing and language tests, and library tours, etc. But for sure the most powerful part of orientation is Connections on Sunday morning.

It's not a secret, but for the sake of maintaining the gravity of the event I wont say too much. But almost unanimously, people agree that it was the best part of their orientation weekend, every year. It's a sobering event, the purpose of which is to let the incoming students know that they aren't alone, and that help, support, and love in general can be found on campus.

Having been fortunate enough to experience orientation  from both sides, I feel that, again, I'm coming away from this first weekend feeling closer the college as well as my peers. As much fun as we all have, and as silly as orientation can be, it really does shape people's experience here, and I am humbled by what I have learned and experienced. 

O-Leaders 2012!!!*
Thanks for reading! 

*Photo credit to Dave Landers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Camp Outright 2.0

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the awesome opportunity this summer of being a cabin counselor at Camp Outright (CO2.0), a camp for queer and allied youth. Saturday was, sadly, our last day of camp, and after sending campers home and some clean up, the staff parted ways, and I came and crashed with some family friends in Burlington for the weekend before I came back to school on Monday.

...and the pride flag was flown.
To be honest, I'm not even sure where to start. This whole experience was so big and so powerful that I feel like it's ambitious to even try to write just one post about it. Camp has been going on for a long time. I was interviewed back in the spring semester, and staff at both Outright VT and the YWCA have been planning for eight months or more. But after all the planning, interviews and paperwork, most of us staff met for the first time at training on Thursday the 9th of August at the YWCA office in Winooski. Here, speakers came in to discuss mental health, gender, sexual violence and other things we would need to be aware of, given our unique situation. So it was a heavy two days of training. Then on Saturday, we made our way to camp to wrap up staff training and get ready for the campers, and on Sunday afternoon the youth arrived.

I was co-counselor with a fellow staff member in a gender-liberated cabin, which meant that there were youth in the cabin who were both female- and male-identified, as well as genderqueer. Our cabin rocked. A little shy at first, it turned into a very comfortable, cohesive group pretty quickly. They were great, and two campers told my co-counselor and I that they wished we were their older brothers.

Every day, we woke up at 7.00 (if you did polar bear, a before-breakfast activity) or 7.30. Throughout the day, the youth attended self-elected program blocks such as canoeing, archery, and other sports, as well as arts, drama, and other special workshops like drag and project runway. It was like any common summer camp in a lot of ways, but, obviously, catered more towards the queer community. Then for mealtimes, we had awesome food cooked by a wonderful volunteer who knew what they were doing. Like, they went to culinary school, we weren't eating camp food.

Another cool thing we did at camp was a daily workshop called Unity. Each day it was different, but it involved speakers and participation on topics such as body image, identity, and self-care. They were really powerful and hit pretty close to home for a lot of the youth and staff. But the messages were very positive, and I think a lot of people, including myself, benefited from these workshops. Also, all of the topics involved issues relevant to the queer community, but not exclusively.

CO2.0 was a unique experience and I'm so fortunate to have been able to participate. This is cliche, but I'm convinced I learned more from the kids and their stories than I could have possibly taught them. Not only was I exposed to new ideas and understandings of gender identity and the Queer Community in general, there was also just such a positive, genuine atmosphere of caring and understanding that felt like it existed exclusively in the present, probably not the same as it was last year and different than it will be next year. This week was the epitome of once-in-a-lifetime.

So, this doesn't even scratch the surface of what this week was like; I've just accepted that it's impossible to wrap up all in one post. But for more information, check out Outright or the YWCA, and you can like them on facebook too!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Camp Training and Back to School.

For the past two days I've been staying in Winooski (down the road from St. Mike's!) receiving training for my position as a cabin counselor at Camp Outright this coming week. So far I've learned a lot! We've had speakers from UVM and Hope Works present about issues that we might encounter at camp, and the whole experience this at has been very positive.

Today we move in to camp to set up and get ready for the campers. I'll be leading sailing and assisting in other activities, and I'm pretty excited to go camp since I haven't gone in a few years ;) and it will be cool to be a counselor this time around!

Then after camp, I have two nights to pass at a friend's house before I move back to St. Mike's for the fall semester! Which begins with the best week of everyone's freshman year, orientation ;)

So see you in a week! And thanks for reading. :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back to Burlington.

First off, I have a confession. This summer my blog has suffered due to a disease called Lazystudentitis, which is oft contracted by many a college student in the summer. The symptoms include a disregard for punctuality, oversleeping, watching too much TV and, in some cases, forgetting to blog. Luckily, with a little organization and planning, I'm back on my feet and it looks my blogging should be back to normal! Hopefully now I've improved my immunity and we'll no longer have to worry about that.

It seems like this summer has passed much more quickly than it came. In just two weeks I'll be moving back onto campus (Pontigny woot!) for orientation, but I actually have to be up to Burlington much earlier than that, aka on Wednesday, to be a camp counselor at Camp Outright.

What is Camp Outright, many of you will ask? Well I'm glad you did! Camp Outright is a week-long camp for LGBT and Allied youth, through an organization called Outright VT. Their mission statement: " build safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth." So, starting this Thursday I have training, followed by a week of camp, where I'll be doing lots of camp-counselor-things, among them sailing and ultimate Frisbee. I haven't been to camp since I was like, fourteen, so I'm stoked, especially since it's through such a cool organization like Outright. I believe this is their second summer doing the camp.

 After camp ends (sad), I move back to SMC, then I'll have freshman orientation, and finally, but strangely, classes start again!

So it's a bittersweet time! Lots of awesome stuff going on, mixed with the lameness of no more home-cooked food, as well as having to pack. But I'm a winter guy anyway, I think summer takes too long ;)

Thanks for reading!