NORTH ADAMS -- Although classes won’t get under way until Wednesday at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, some 500 incoming freshmen and transfer students were out in the community Monday volunteering, learning about local art venues or hiking Mount Greylock.
"The purpose of our First Days program is to help acclimate them to their new community," Spencer Moser, coordinator of the college’s Center for Service and Citizenship, said Monday. "We want to expose them to all of the different cultural and natural resources of Northern Berkshire and encourage them to explore their new city."
The college will celebrate its opening today with its annual Convocation ceremonies at 4 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center. The event features speaker Joanne R. White, an English Language Arts consultant for the Connecticut State De partment of Education and a 1985 graduate of the college.
While hiking Mount Greylock is a long-standing tradition at the college, he said not everyone is inclined to or physically able to climb the mountain, so the college offers several alternatives.
"Service learning is so critical to some of our students, and one of the things that attracts many of our students to MCLA is the fact that we have it embedded in our education offerings," Moser said.
At the North Adams Museum of History and Science, freshman Sean Kelleher, a history major from the Worcester area, was busy cleaning
"History is a topic that interests me and I thought coming here would help me make some connections with the area," he said. "I’m discovering all the great stories this place has."
Samantha Latella, a freshman from Schenectady, N.Y., volunteered her services at the museum because she has a background in cleaning.
"My mom was always a cleaning lady and she’d take me on her trips with her," she said. "At the same time, I love museums because they are always full of these little items that are really interesting. Everywhere I turn, I’m learning something new about North Adams."
Other community service sites included Windsor Lake, the Louison House, Habitat for Humanity, C.T. Plunkett Elementary School, local community gardens and Mohawk Forest.
Meanwhile, other students were participating in an "arts crawl," visiting MCLA Gallery 51 as well as the DownStreet Art galleries, where they spoke with artists like Richard Criddle.
Sophomore transfer students Bridget Tanguay, of Adams, and Deanna Boucher, of Lowell, said they chose the tour because they belong to the art major.
"I wanted to see what they have to offer and what the galleries are like," Boucher, who transferred to MCLA from Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., said.
Prior to heading out into the community, students were greeted by President Mary K. Grant, who is heading into her 11th year at the college.
"This time of year is very energizing as our community comes back together," she said. "A day like today really sends a message to our students. It reminds them that we care about and are a part of the greater Berkshire County and of their responsibility of being a good citizen."
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