Campus slows down markedly during the summer months, with only about 10 percent of the student body remaining, conducting research with faculty or working at jobs in various offices. Three Hamilton students, Christine Roback ’12, Helen Higgins ’13, and Bobby Finan ’13, are working tirelessly alongside Director of Outdoor Leadership Andrew Jillings and Director of Outreach and Orientation Amy James in preparation for the August arrival of more than 200 first-year students participating in Hamilton’s pre-orientation programs.
Hamilton offers two parallel options for pre-orientation: Adirondack Adventure (AA), directed by Jillings, is a nationally acclaimed outdoor recreation program that features a four-day wilderness adventure trip (with options to hike, canoe, kayak, or any combination thereof) in the Adirondack State Park; Outreach Adventure (OA), directed by James, is a community engagement program that allows participants to volunteer for five days at a not-for-profit agency in nearby Utica or Rome. Both programs are eight days and conclude with a full day at a high ropes challenge course at an outdoor education facility. The programs take place directly prior to first-year-orientation in August.
Higgins and Finan are the AA interns, and have been working in the Glen House since early in the spring semester, when interviews for new leaders began. They worked throughout the semester in the leader selection process and organization of leader training, and have been spending the summer handling correspondences with participants and organizing and testing Glen House gear. Registration is still open, but the interns now have assembled 26 trips with 53 leaders and 210 participants.
Roback, the OA intern, worked with the AA interns during the fall (the beginning phases of OA and AA leader selection and training happen concurrently), but has been working in the Chapel since May with James—Roback has been responsible for direct contact with participants, as well as organizing trip logistics. There are currently 35 incoming first-years registered for OA, and Roback and James are hoping to send out six trips.
In just its fourth year, OA has come a long way in organizational and participant capacity. Originally called Urban Service Experience (USE), OA was devised in 2008 as an alternative to students who wanted to involve themselves in pre-orientation, but were more drawn to community service than outdoor recreation. In its first year, USE sent out only one trip, led by College Chaplain Jeff McArn. The next three years saw steady growth, with numbers this year just about equal with last year’s.
Roback is also in charge of organizing Hamilton Serves, the community service component of regular first-year orientation, which sends groups of 8-10 first-years and one upperclassman orientation leader on service trips to one of 60 locations in nearby Utica or Rome.
Pre-orientation trip leaders underwent an intensive, week-long training regimen in May, Adirondack Adventure overseen by Jillings and Outreach Adventure overseen by James. AA leaders packed up backcountry food and gear and spent three days honing outdoor skills and learning leadership techniques on the outskirts of the Kirkland Glenn, while OA leaders spent three service days volunteering at The Children’s Museum, Seeds of Hope Food Pantry, and Hope House soup kitchen, while living and learning about leadership at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Utica.
All of the interns are excited for August, when leaders will return to campus for their last few days of training before participants arrive. They say that seeing behind the scenes of Hamilton’s pre-orientation has been a valuable experience, and they look forward to returning to lead trips in the future.
Finan is a graduate of Canisius High School in New York; Higgins graduated from the Pembroke Hill School in Missouri; and Roback is a graduate of Whitesboro High School in New York.