Every student at St. John’s University has their own unique experiences, through academics, extra-curricular activities and the social scene. One experience that all St. John students have in common though is Freshmen Orientation, which is mandatory for all incoming students. The three-day orientation program is meant to get the incoming students acclimated to the school, in every aspect.
“Students have the opportunity to meet new people. It takes away from the fear of the first day of school,” said Jenine Parraga, Coordinator of Student Development.
With multiple sessions occurring all summer with around 400 students in each one, it takes a lot of support from the University to have it all go off without a hitch.
A huge part of the program are the outgoing, red shirt wearing young men and women swarming campus in the summer months known as Orientation Leaders, or O.Ls for short. Altogether, there are 50 Orientation Leaders, all of whom have worked hard to get where they are today.
Applications are taken in the Fall semester, and then are whittled down from there. According to Parraga, at the beginning of the application process of this year, there were 220 applicants, ranging from freshmen to junior year.
After applications were in, group interviews were conducted, and only 66 students were chosen to go through to the next part of the application process.
For those that were selected, they had to report to a class every Tuesday night during Spring semester from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to learn everything about not only the program, but about the University.
Quizzes were given, and a certain GPA level had to be maintained in order to be considered. At the end of the semester, the fifty chosen were the ones become the orientation leaders for 2008-2009.
“Orientation Leaders that we choose have a big love for St. John’s. They receive an opportunity to interact with the freshmen and gain professional development. They are the front line not only for the summer program, but for the University.” said Parraga.
Out of the 50 Orientation Leaders, there are 18 returning ones from the previous summer. These students move back to campus on June 13 and stay for the summer, residing in Donovan Hall, where orientation students also stay.
Junior Megan Morales is a second-year orientation leader, who knew she wanted to be an OL at her own orientation three years ago. “I was really outgoing during my orientation and I loved the fact that everyone was open and accepted my loudness.
The Orientation Leaders were excited to see my excitement,” said Morales. Orientation Leaders spend most of their summer break on campus, but that does not affect them.
“I love the fact that I spend the whole summer with people that are like my brothers and sisters by the end of the summer and that I get to meet people from all over the country and the work to share my idea and experience of St. John’s,” said Morales. “It is a family atmosphere because we get to know each other fairly well, and we have fun. It is an intense program, and when we do get free time we like to level our heads for a bit and relax together,” said Parraga regarding the bond shared.
Orientation Leaders partake on various bonding activities, such as having dinner, seeing a Broadway show together, and going to the movies.
“We are proud to say that all of the Orientation Leaders have diverse personalities. They are a little bit of everything, people can relate to them. From the vibrant, outgoing ones to the more reserved and quiet leaders. They are all strong, responsible and dependable people,” said Parraga.
Matthew Schoenstein, Coordinator of Social Activities, Development and Registration, said, “The team becomes more of a family than a team.” This is Schoenstein’s third year with the program. Sophomore Krystal Torres is excited to part of the program for the first time.
“It is very exciting to be given this opportunity,” she said.
The Orientation Leaders spend their summer ensuring that the incoming freshmen feel comfortable at their new university, and to pass along their life experience since they have been here. “I tell incoming freshmen to get involved- academics come first, but involvement is what really makes college memorable,” said Parraga.
Morales echoes that advice.
“Get involved, and if you have any doubts about your major, go to the Career Center where you can take a strong assessment test and receive guidance.”
There is no doubt that the incoming freshmen will gain a unique St. John’s experience this summer, and it will be largely due to the efforts of the hard-working Orientation Leaders.
Their work is what makes orientations possible.