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22 July 2005

Peer Counselors Give New Students Preview of JSU

By Dave Howell
Staff Writer

For most college students, the idea of adapting to college life is both exhilarating yet frightening at the same time. Many are nervous about meeting new people or getting the help they need, while some wonder whether or not they'll be able to navigate their way around the campus. Welcome to the "Fabulous Jacksonville State University," where those fears and many more are put to ease during the summer's new student orientation program.

The first few weeks on campus are extremely critical for all new college students. It is during this time that freshmen make critical decisions that will have an effect on the rest of their lives. To make the transition from high school to college a little easier, JSU offers a variety of services and programs designed not only to help new students survive their first few weeks of college life, but ones which offer longer-term guidance and support for decisions which will assist students far beyond graduation. Central to this experience are the JSU peer counselors and faculty mentors who head up the university orientation program.

Every year, the Office of Student Activities selects from a group of the university's most outstanding students to serve as peer counselors to prospective and incoming freshmen. At orientation, new students are introduced to a campus community that is filled with academic opportunities, rich traditions, and friendly people. The counselors lead this summer-long orientation activity to give new students a chance to meet their fellow classmates, learn about campus life, and ask any questions they may have before the semester starts. Counselors familiarize new students with campus through skits, one-on-one conversations, and other experiences that help make positive first memories of their college career.

"We try to pack the JSU experience into one day," said Kenny Reighard, peer counselor coordinator. "It's hard, but in that one day, we want new students to see everything that JSU has to offer."

Reignard said that these well trained and enthusiastic individuals are committed to providing new students with all the tools necessary for academic and personal success. The freshmen orientation sessions are designed to be both enriching and rewarding by introducing college life from both a personal and academic perspective. From July through August, the counselors will hold six two-day orientations of about 120 students each. The students are broken up into groups of 10, with one peer counselor assigned to each group.

According to peer counselor coordinator Cassie Sanders, the peer counselors have a strong desire to assist students in their transition to JSU. The prospective and incoming students will be staying on-campus their two-day tour. One of the ways they will do this is by moving into the dorm rooms for the summer with them. The counselors themselves moved into Fitzpatrick July 1 and will be staying through August 6.

"The students each stay two nights in the dorm, so we plan to decorate our rooms as if we were living there for the whole year," Sanders said. "We take them up to our rooms so they see how the dorm looks and get the feel of dorm life."

"It gives them a chance to make friends," she said. "When you're coming from far away and you don't know anybody, it's rough."

In addition to the regular tour, the peer counselors plan to make the orientation event more entertaining by first performing a skit about the experience of the new student and plan to take a gamble later that night with a risky activity that is sure to raise the stakes. This year, the counselors are hosting a casino night which will give students a chance to have fun and socialize.

"This year's theme is 'Welcome to Fabulous Jacksonville State University,' a take off the Las Vegas slogan," Reighard said. "We'll be playing poker and blackjack and we will be giving out lots of prizes."

Reighard and Sanders insist that the program has three goals in mind. One, to provide information and assistance to new students and their families so that they may succeed academically and develop socially; Two, to allow new students to meet each other and develop new relationships; and lastly, to provide information on the variety of student services offered on campus so that students will feel comfortable navigating the university on their own.

"This is our chance to share our own experiences as be a source of support and information," Sanders aid. "We get a chance to tell new students all the things we didn't know, that we wish we had known."

2005 Peer Counselors

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