By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Early on Saturday morning, there was a cool breeze, a harbinger of fall. That would change. The crape myrtles were in full color, blooming in wild pink abandon. The persistent chirp of insects was soon blotted out by the sounds of greetings and conversation.
Welcome to move-in day at Catawba College, the day when freshmen and other new students converge on the green, shaded campus on West Innes Street.
Jeremy Gardner was one student who welcomed visitors just outside the student center.
Gardner, a sophomore from Concord, is one of three dozen student volunteers who serve on the Alpha orientation team.
Orientation took place Wednesday-Friday. Gardner said that some 86 freshmen attended, learning more about each other and Catawba. "They met some good friends that they'll have hopefully for the next four years," Gardner said.
Across the street outside the Crystal Lounge, other Alphas were checking in new students, directing them to various points around campus. Team members also serve as greeters and help new students move into their dorms.
This is the 21st year that Dr. Carl Girelli, associate provost, has been in charge of orientation. Early Saturday morning, things were going smoothly. He was proud of the work the Alpha upperclassmen were doing.
"They work their hearts out for a T-shirt and the pleasure of serving," said Girelli, who also wore a bright turquoise Alpha T-shirt. "They're the calvary. They're amazing."
On this day, the students helped welcome some 270 freshmen. Along with re-entering students, day students completing post-baccalaureate work and transfer students, the number of new students to Catawba is about 350. Those new students and their parents wore nervous smiles as they picked up welcome packets.
Senior Mary Alice Nichols of Conyers, Ga., and Jessica Gaskill of Salisbury are Alpha student co-directors. "I had fun in orientation," said Nichols, a third-year Alpha. "I just wanted to make sure all incoming students had as much fun as I did."
Near the student center, a group of ladies from First United Methodist Church distributed free water to thirsty visitors. "Come see us if you get thirsty," said Suzanne Roakes as groups of two or three passed by on the sidewalk. She was on campus with the Rev. Julie O'Neal, associate pastor, Bobbie Melton and her daughters Sarah, 9, and Regan, 6. "We're sisters," Regan said. "We're not friends."
Inside the student center, there were lines everywhere — but they were moving right along — as students picked up parking passes, handbooks and had their student identification cards made.
Meredith Avery, a junior transfer student from Clayton, had her picture snapped by Dee Woodie. This is the third college for Avery, who has an associate's degree in art. She came to Catawba for its theater program. When told, "the third time's a charm" by Woodie, Avery responded, "It better be!"
Seemingly not nervous at all were freshman Silas Boyle and his parents, Silas and Mollie, who arrived from Louisville, Ken. His dad put together a list of his son's interests, which included swimming at the college level and music business.
"It fit everything," the elder Boyle said.
"Basically, the music program sold me," Boyle said. "It was different than anything else I looked at. It was a good different."
With their older daughter already in school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the Boyles — both with wide smiles on their faces — are happy to be empty nesters.
Another parent with a big smile on his face was Jerome Conner of Concord, who was helping his son, Ryan, move into a third-floor dorm room. "This is great!" the elder Conner said, as he and his son unloaded a completely full PT Cruiser with the help of resident assistants and Alpha team members.
Conner chose Catawba because of its theater program. He was involved in theater and chorus at Central Cabarrus High School, and attended a theater competition on campus. "I just fell in love with everything about it," Conner said.
Meanwhile, his dad was still grinning about Ryan Conner, the oldest of his five children. "He is the only boy," Conner said. "He's the only male. He's not a boy anymore." With four daughters at home, Conner planned to keep close touch with his only son.
As a group of resident assistants watched the stream of stuff coming into the dorm, they noted that moving out was much easier.
"People throw a lot of stuff away," said Tim Cook, a head resident assistant in Salisbury-Rowan dorm. "Last year, two of my residents collected everything students were getting rid of, had a yard sale and made $400."
Meanwhile, upstairs, Anne Mabry, a freshman from China Grove, was getting settled in her room. Mabry's roommate is Jessica Morris, a freshman from Charlotte.
A West scholar, Mabry chose Catawba because of its education program, having also considered Appalachian State University, Wingate University and the University of North Carolina. During open house, Hannah Thomas encouraged her to sign up for cross country, which she has done. "For basketball camps, I've always come here," Mabry said. "I love it. It feels like home."
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
PHOTOS: Move-In Day 2010
Orientation Schedule & Info