Campus News

New Pre-O Option Focuses on Community Service

Story posted August 07, 2002

Approximately 2/3 of all incoming first-year Bowdoin College students will arrive on campus August 27 to participate in Pre-Orientation trips.

While "Pre-O" has traditionally focused on outdoor trips directed by the Bowdoin Outing Club, this year a community service component has been added to the schedule to help familiarize new students with the greater Brunswick area and foster a commitment to service.

So instead of hiking, rock climbing and canoeing, students participating in the intensive four-day "Community Immersion" Pre-O will find themselves meeting with members of Portland's sizable immigrant and refugee population; visiting island communities to learn about their fishing and lobstering traditions; and working with some of the more-than 50 non-profit organizations in the Midcoast region.

"Community Immersion will be a powerful program," says Lydia Bell, Bowdoin's coordinator of student community service programs. "It will introduce students to communities which are relatively close to the college, but which are very different from the culture encompassing the campus. The fishing and lobstering communities have helped to define Maine for centuries, and have a long-standing tradition passed down from generation to generation. Just 30 miles away we enter Portland, which rings with a medley of languages spoken by many shades of people, all bringing new cultural ideals and practices to the area. This blend of new and old, tied together with community service, should offer students a rich, eye-opening experience."

The 25 students signed up for Community Immersion are an "excitingly diverse group -- culturally, socioeconomically, and geographically," according to Bell. Participants are from Vietnam, London, Ontario, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Harlem, Brooklyn, Boston, Washington, D.C., Texas, Indiana, New Jersey, and Maine. Bell predicts their blend of backgrounds and philosophies will make for an even more valuable experience.

Their work will begin Wednesday, August 28 as the students immerse themselves in "The Fishing and Lobstering Traditions of Maine." Their activities will include coastal trail work with the Georgetown Community Center, and a trip to the Maine Maritime Museum. Lunch at Lisa's Lobster House and Grill will afford them the opportunity to meet and talk with lobstermen, as well as the restaurant owner, a 22-year-old local woman who worked her way through college.

Thursday, August 29 -- "Brunswick Day" -- will give the students the opportunity to learn about and work in the community where they will be spending their next four years. The groups will work with Respite Care and Hospice Volunteers, Spindleworks (an art center for people with disabilities), the American Red Cross, the Tedford Shelter, and the Humane Society.

They will also dip into local history with the Pejepscot Historical Society, visiting the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum and Skolfield-Whittier House. This will be followed by a panel discussion about Brunswick with representatives from Bath Iron Works, Brunswick Naval Air Station, Bath-Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, Brunswick Area Arts and Cultural Alliance, and Bowdoin College. Supper that evening celebrates diversity, as many of Brunswick's ethnic restaurants provide fare to include Indian, Thai, Chinese, German, Italian, Mexican, and British food. The students will then visit residents of the Thornton Hall Retirement Home.

Friday, August 30 -- "Refugee and Immigrant Community Day" -- brings the group to Portland. Students will work with the Community Gardens Program (helping Portland's refugee community grow native produce) and Maine Catholic Charities. A refugee panel discussion will be held at the Center for Cultural Exchange in the afternoon. The day will conclude with a harbor cruise past Munjoy Hill and Peak's Island.

Saturday, August 31 -- the final day of Pre-O -- will find the students splitting into two groups for a pair of large community service projects in the greater Brunswick area. One group will do trail work at Bradbury Mountain State Park, and the other will do cleaning and yard work for the Freeport YMCA.

The students -- who will stay with local families for the duration of Pre-O -- will move into their dorms in late afternoon, as Bowdoin's official Orientation weekend begins.

Traditionally Bowdoin's Pre-O trips have focused on the Maine outdoors, and these trips continue to be an important way for students to launch their Bowdoin careers.

Put together under the direction of Bowdoin's Outing Club (the College's largest student organization), the trips include hiking to Mount Katahdin and Mahoosuc Notch, canoeing on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, rock climbing at Acadia National Park, and other activities.

These outdoor Pre-O trips serve to build community and leadership among the incoming class, as well as serve as an introduction to the beauty, geography, and natural resources of the State of Maine. Several of these trips will be held August 27-31 with over 200 students participating.

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