The Helping Hands Behind a Grueling Move In
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Moving in to college freshman year is not just an event to add to your Facebook timeline—it’s a day that most students will never forget. The excitement for the new year, combined with the anxiety of leaving home, can leave many first-year students overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. At Boston College, however, freshmen have a much easier time adjusting to campus thanks to a group of astounding individuals: the Welcome Wagon volunteers.
Welcome Wagon, a program designed to ease the move-in process for freshmen, garnered over 400 volunteers this summer, a result of the efforts by Monica St. Louis and Ally Chase, the director and student coordinator, respectively.
St. Louis, the assistant director for community standards at the Office of Residential Life, is a Massachusetts native who currently lives on campus with her husband and two children. She joined the BC community in November of 2007 and has been overseeing the program since 2008. Up until three years ago, she explained, freshman move-in was a two-day process, so condensing this period to a single day has made the Welcome Wagon volunteers all the more necessary.
“We had about 2,800 students this past year,” St. Louis said. “Between the hours of 7 and 5, everybody has to move in.” For students who live on Upper Campus, where parking and space are limited, the help of the volunteers keeps traffic from getting blocked up in the Newton area.
St. Louis worked with Chase, CSON ’13, to organize the volunteers and assign group leaders to make the process more efficient. Chase is a very active student—she works at Beth Israel Hospital, is part of the Student Nursing Association, helps out with Relay for Life, and has worked for ResLife in previous years. Chase joined the Welcome Wagon as a group leader her sophomore year, and she has been the student coordinator for the past two summers. As a previous leader, Chase can attest to the rewarding experience of being part of the Welcome Wagon team.
“I think it’s a great program,” Chase said. “I met a lot of friends from it, and training is actually fun, which is a plus.” Responsibilities of the leaders include running a team of about 30 volunteers per building, making sure everyone is hydrated, and ensuring that volunteers are polite and accommodating to the incoming freshmen.
The Welcome Wagon volunteers are some of the first faces that the new students see when they arrive on campus, so the manner in which volunteers interact with the freshmen can have a large impact on their initial impressions of BC.
“You meet sophomores, juniors, and seniors who can welcome you to BC, who can answer your questions—who are already an established part of the community,” St. Louis said of the exchanges between the newest members of BC and the current students. “There’s a sense of comfort in seeing other students helping you move in.”
Chase and St. Louis are responsible for recruiting many volunteers through email and advertisements, but many students reach out to the coordinators due to the continued success of the program.
“I think a lot of students who moved in freshman year really want to be a part of that experience sophomore year because they benefitted from it and want to give back,” said St. Louis. “A lot of our recruitment is self-volunteer.”
It’s also not uncommon for students to become repeat volunteers—after having such a positive experience the first time, many return for a second or third year.
The Welcome Wagon has been a tradition at BC for quite some time, yet St. Louis is continually in awe of the strength and positive spirit that the volunteers possess.
“What always amazes me about Welcome Wagon is how it’s not easy,” she said. “You’ve got 400 people who are there of their own free will, volunteering their time, doing heavy physical labor.” One student, she explained, was even dubbed the “fridge guy.”
It’s important to recognize exactly how much time the volunteers spend moving in students that day, especially those who have early morning shifts starting at 6 a.m. “The energy and the enthusiasm of the volunteers is just remarkable,” St. Louis noted.
Reflecting on welcoming the Class of 2016, St. Louis and Chase felt very positively about how the program has been running and has high expectations for the future.
“It seems to be getting better every single year,” Chase said. “This year it went pretty smooth—we didn’t lose anything, as far as I’m aware.”
It’s quite remarkable that in the midst of all the boxes, refrigerators, and luggage, the volunteers were able to keep everything organized as they welcomed the freshmen with smiles and words of encouragement. St. Louis and Chase have a tremendous responsibility on their shoulders, and for the past few years they have produced a program that truly showcases the compassionate spirit of volunteerism and giving back that is ever so present on our campus. Their dedication to making sure every student feels like BC is their home is what makes them unsung heroes of our University.