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Monday, March 4, 2013

Taking Orientation Full Circle

My 1st Orientation Family - Beaver/Clear Creek Crew 2010
Photo Credit: Sean Thomas
When scrolling through the assortment of blogs, I find myself smiling at the pictures of various individuals reflections on orientation. The stories and connections, the environment and lessons, the weather and the blisters - these moments (whether experienced on a backpacking trip, within the Prescott community, or at the life-centering base camp) create a thread of connection between current incoming students and every other incoming class since 1966 - when the college was founded. This opportunity is not only unique - it is a tradition that can connects you to the broader community the instant you meet your group.
All of the Blue Range Groups 2012
Photo Cred: Ann Marie Boutin

I remember when I first met my instructors and crew of classmates that would soon become my first Prescott College “family”. At Chauncey Ranch I stood with a group of equally uncertain new students, waiting in great anticipation to meet our instructors and classmates. A nearby trailer began to shake as silly, savage screams seeped through. Suddenly, out burst a colorful crew of instructors - dressed in brightly colored spandex and sequined capes they ran circles through the crowd. It took us a second to see that attached to the backs of the instructors were the student names. It felt like chaos, but everyone was laughing and running in the hot, dry heat. In good time, we found our instructors and settled in.

While most equate the orientation experience to ones first course at Prescott College, this past fall block my relationship with the program took a new turn. After taking a number of field courses and developing my own leadership style/skill set, I felt that I was ready to apply for a position as a student orientation instructor. A mixture of nerves and excitement flooded my being. The prospect of leading a group of students who would graduate as my peers in their first experience through the school was somewhat terrifying.

A week before the new students would arrive on campus, I walked into the chapel with my roommate (who was also leading Orientation). Vivid flashbacks of anticipation filled my system. Who would my co-instructor be? Do I have the time and systems to make sure I have all my ducks in a row so I can be the best resource possible for my students? How do I support these students and set them up for success in their first course at Prescott College??

While the anxiety never fully vanished, it was largely replaced by awe and inspiration. We first sat in the circle format and introduced ourselves. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of this initial interaction. Each individual shared their name and why they were there. There were stories, filled with laughter, tears, and insight. The individuals who returned to the program a multitude times - after being a student, to a student instructor, to a lead instructor, to a course director, to program director. The connection this opportunity provides roots one to the environment, the community, a history worth being proud of.

My Wonderful Crew
Photo Cred: Ann Marie Boutin

From that moment on - the experience was a blur. In town training, field training, packing, re-packing, unpacking, adventuring, laughing, reflecting, adjusting, unpacking washing, writing, preparing. And then we met our students. In a room with 150 or so new students, trying to find your 10 can be minorly hectic. Our crew of “rainbows” began to sort themselves out, walking the chaos and pandemonium that came with the anticipation. You could see in their shifting eyes the anxiousness and excitement. The uncertainty and readiness.

Hanna Hot Springs - Lovely
Photo Credit: Ann Marie Boutin

Welcome to Prescott College. This will be your first “family”. We learn to love each other through the challenges provided with back country living. We will laugh, and maybe cry. We will change and transform, we will walk in creek beds and over hills that don’t resemble anyone's idea of the southwest. We will dance under waterfalls and ease our bumped and bruised bodies in the hot springs. 

This program represents a tradition of transition and transformation. It is an invaluable experience for new students. I see it now as an invaluable experience for current students. The opportunity to apply one's learning through the opportunity to facilitate one of the most magical experiences one will have at the school. To reflect and remember. To connect and create memories that will last a lifetime. Welcome to Prescott College - watch and reflect as you and your community learns, grows, and transforms.

Ah, Education
Photo Credit: Ann Marie Boutin

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