08/15/10 — Mount Olive College welcomes first-year students for 2010-11 term

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Mount Olive College welcomes first-year students for 2010-11 term

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on August 15, 2010 1:50 AM

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Kessie Lowe, left, carries her belongings as she moves into one of the Mount Olive College dorms with the help of Brenda Lowe and Ralph Dunn. The college was abuzz again with students returning ready for a new school year.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College welcomed a record-breaking freshman class Saturday as new students arrived to deck out their dorm rooms and learn their way around campus.

About 234 resident and commuter freshmen turned out for their first official day as Trojans -- more students than any other class in the school's 60 years of operation.

Freshman Marizela Ortiz of Kenly hopes to major in criminal justice and eventually pursue a career as a lawyer. But first, she had to find the cafeteria and figure out how to coordinate with her roommate.

"It's all crazy, it's crazy, and it's something different. It's a whole new world, a whole new life," the North Johnston High School graduate said.

The college held a day-long series of events to help students settle in, and coax parents into feeling better about letting go. Besides freshman orientation and a dormitory hall meeting, the school also celebrated convocation and invited parents to meet with college President Philip Kerstetter at a reception.

It was still a little hard for mom Valerie Taylor to think about leaving her daughter, Jasmine Taylor, when it came time to drive back home to Kinston.

"Now that it has really hit me, I'm sad to see her leave. But it will pay off in the end," she said. "I don't think I'm going to 'cry,' cry, because I know she's right up the street."

The rite of passage meant big changes for Kay Wood and her daughter, Sarah Wood, of Pine Level, even though they plan to stay in touch through visits and phone calls.

"It's very hard for me, but she's very smart. She's always been a good child, I've never had any problems with her, so I feel comfortable. This is good for her, and she's going to always make right decisions," Mrs. Wood said.

"Are you going to miss me?" Sarah asked.

"Yes, I'm going to miss you. She is my best friend," Mrs. Wood said, hugging her daughter.

The students won't face the world of college on their own. Each new freshman also met with his or her own special "success advocate," a counselor or faculty member assigned to each student to help them navigate the first year of higher education. The student success program debuted at the college earlier this year and is designed to help keep freshmen on track, officials said.

The new college students can also rely on their peers for help and advice. Sophomore resident advisor Latasha Simms started her job as an RA in "Griffin, the best dorm in the world" by helping the freshmen women move in.

Moving day can be even harder on parents than on students, especially if they're having to adjust to sending their child off to college for the first time, but freshmen will have their own lessons to learn as they get used to the changes, Miss Simms said.

"Just don't lose focus. Don't forget why you're here, because you can definitely lose focus," she said.

Several volunteer groups from the area joined forces to help the students move in, and even set up tables of refreshments for the families.

Even before the first moving truck pulled into the parking lot, the college anticipated another "banner year" for enrollment after several consecutive years of growth. More than 800 traditional students will begin classes this week, according to Dr. Barbara Kornegay, the school's vice president for enrollment.

"We have had a 23 percent increase in inquiries compared to last year this time, and our confirmations are up by 15 percent," she said.

The college has expanded to the point that providing on-campus housing for interested traditional students has become a challenge. This year, the college reached an agreement with the Southern Belle Motel to provide nearby housing for students, turning the back section of the hotel's rooms and suites into dorm rooms.

The freshmen class will meet Monday to begin work on a special community service project. Returning students will arrive on campus Tuesday and classes begin Wednesday.