August 26 , 2006
SUNY students pull up, settle in
Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland freshman Heather Stephens, of Marathon, carries her belongings into Cheney Hall Friday morning. She is followed by her dad, Lon, left, and Matt meade, a sophomore student staff member who was helping with traffic.
CORTLAND — Thousands of parents, siblings and friends accompanied SUNY Cortland students onto campus Friday, signifying the beginning of the fall semester.
Black-shirted members of the welcome team — made up of early-arrivals — football players wearing red jerseys, and other athletes, often in homemade shirts, unloaded cars and quickly helped to fill dorm rooms.
The students descended with piles of plastic containers, refrigerators, clothing-stuffed duffle or garbage bags (it usually depended on the gender), appliances in their boxes, and anything else that could possibly be brought to college.
Many of the roughly 1,500 students arriving on campus were freshmen or transfer students, said Director of Residential Services Mike Holland.
“Another 1,500 tomorrow and Sunday, and they come in at all hours because they’ve been here before,” Holland said Friday afternoon, just getting back into his office after an understandably busy day. “Of course, for returning students it’s much easier because they know where they’re going.”
University Police directed the flow of traffic, which was restricted on Prospect Terrace and Neubig Road to only freshmen and transfer students.
As he waited with daughter Heather’s belongings in front of Cheney Hall after she had “disappeared” into the building, Lon Stephens of Marathon said he was happy he had avoided backed-up traffic on Interstate 81 due to an accident.
The welcoming staff had emptied the car and moved on while Heather Stephens left to retrieve her key. They soon returned to shuttle all of Heather’s belongings into her room.
The new student seemed a bit upset when she heard that as an upperclassman next year, she would not receive the same level of assistance when unloading. But Stephens shrugged it off.
“I’ll date one of them. They’ll be back next year,” Heather said to the chuckles of her family.
With family so nearby, it isn’t likely that Heather will get too homesick.
“We’re going to the State Fair tonight,” Lon Stephens said. “I found out yesterday that she plans on going home every weekend.”
Maria Nanna of Harrison, Westchester County, said she did run into traffic on the way up to drop off freshman Bryan Buchalski.
“You could see everybody’s cars filled with stuff, and everybody had that ‘nice’ look on their face. It was something,” Nanna said.
Sitting in front of Fitzgerald Hall and watching the traffic move down Neubig Road at about noon, Jeff Stewart of Garden City, Long Island, enjoyed a cigar and waited for his freshman son, Bryan, to finish in his new room.
“It’s a lot different from when I went to school — a lot better organized” Jeff Stewart said. “My parents dropped me off and said goodbye, and that was that.”
Stewart also lamented the separate and strictly monitored on-campus housing for men and women in his college days.
Bryan Stewart, his mother, Pam Stewart — a 1981 SUNY Cortland graduate — and little brother Brett returned from the room in short order.
“It’s all right, it looks pretty good,” Bryan said of his and his roommate’s efforts. “We’ve got all of the stuff. We split it up — he’s got the fridge and the rug, I’ve got the TV and the video game (console).”
Like most new students, Stewart had coordinated the outfitting of the room with his roommate in advance.
Freshman Jaleesa Martin of Syracuse had just arrived in front of Fitzgerald Hall and was lucky enough to beat her roommate (which means first pick of the beds, of course).
“We’ve got three mirrors. My roommate said that we might not have mirrors. She seems really on the ball,” Martin said. “She’s from Queens. Maybe she got stuck in traffic, because she said she would be here early.”
A SUNY Cortland freshman from Nottingham High School in Syracuse, Martin said she was a bit nervous about not knowing anybody, and said she is “trying not to think about” the emotional experience of her parents leaving.
“We’re only 20 minutes away, she doesn’t need to be emotional,” her brother Tom Martin Jr. said as he handed a stereo system to his father, Tom Martin Sr. “We’ve been planning this trip for years.”
Bits of home come to college
SUNY Cortland freshman Allison Keiser, background left, brought her Power Rangers lunch box to her dorm room in Cheney Hall. Keiser uses the box for her makeup supplies.
Amid reports of an 8-foot piece of plywood being carried into a freshman dorm, possibly for beer pong, other freshman brought less illicit but no-less entertaining personal possessions with them to school.
Patricia Richardson, of Mount Vernon, stood at the trunk of her car on Graham Avenue and handed her daughter’s belongings to members of the welcoming staff as they materialized next to her.
“It’s a lot of junk … You’ve got the roommate,” she said, tucking a teddy bear, dressed in pink ruffles, under her arm. “I didn’t see her pack, so I don’t know what she’s got in these bags.”
It’s always important to bring those things that are closest to your heart along with you to school, and although Allison Keiser has certainly outgrown the current incarnations of the television fixture, she has remembered her youthful fixation on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
“I brought along a Power Rangers lunchbox and Thermos,” Keiser said as she dug the items out of a half-empty bag. “And a Batman alarm clock.”
The alarm clock is a new addition, but the lunchbox — for holding her makeup — and the Thermos — for pens and pencils — are classics, Keiser said at her room in DeGroat Hall.
Alexandra Jones, of Marion, and her roommate, Danielle Lai, of Port Jefferson, organized their room in DeGroat Hall together, Lai calling out “Tall girl!” when she needed help hanging a back-of-the-door organizer on a closet door that was just out of her reach.
As she did for her friends at home, a basket of hemp twine and beads will allow Jones to make necklaces and bracelets for her SUNY Cortland peers.
Lai showed off her cherished possession — a large body pillow.
“I brought my boyfriend,” Lai said.
Two goldfish, one named Susie and the other Dickie, had been given to Emily Leitt, of Gloversville, three days before as going-away presents from a friend. Unfortunately, only Susie had the killer instinct necessary in today’s academic world and Dickie didn’t live long enough to accompany Leitt to college.
One of the parents of Jessica Greenman of Otego, Leitt’s roommate, predicted that Susie would become the dorm mascot.
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Marathon woman a ‘hero’
MARATHON — For the last several years, Charlene Hill has driven a mother and her once-deaf daughter to New York City for the daughter’s medical appointments.
It’s one example of the numerous volunteer works she has done; Hill calls it selfish.
“I’m selfish ’cause I’m learning with all this,” she said.
Hill, 61, of Marathon, said each volunteer job she takes on — whether it’s helping out a play group, bringing an artist to the library or teaching Vacation Bible School — teaches her something new.
And it’s that passion to learn and serve others that made her a finalist in a national recognition contest, said Mary Frank, who nominated Hill for the contest. Frank, library director at Marathon’s Peck Memorial Library, has seen firsthand what kind of person Hill is.
“I’ve learned so much about her and her genuine love for people that it’s humbling,” she said. “With such a love for people it makes you inspired to be something better than what you are.”
The contest, Halls Heroes, honored people for their contributions to their communities. More than 300 people were nominated for the Halls-sponsored contest; only 20 semifinalists were chosen.
From July 11 to Aug. 7 a public vote took place online. Hill received enough votes to be one of the contest’s 10 finalists. All finalists received $5,000 for themselves and $5,000 for their charity of choice.
Hill gave all $10,000 to the Peck Memorial Library. Frank said she was honored, but not totally surprised.
“She wouldn’t want to be above everybody,” Frank said of Hill.
The money will go toward the library’s capital fund campaign, Frank said. The library is looking to raise $600,000 to expand the library, make it wheelchair accessible, put in a new carpet, fix the opera house above the library and more, she said.
Frank said Hill has long volunteered at the library. She has provided a health forum to educate restaurants about cholesterol, heart ailments and maintaining healthy eating habits. And she’s helped get together people to lead Spanish and sign language classes.
“Anything we do extra, Charlene is usually behind it,” Frank said.
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