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Summer Welcome leaders reflect on lessons learned, bonds created from the experience

Sophomore Gretchen Metzger: “I’ve learned so much about the university and what makes it a special place.”

July 13, 2016

Between the sweltering hot mornings spent welcoming groups of students to their first day of Summer Welcome and the late nights spent performing dance routines to “Welcome To The Jungle” during the Revue show, this year’s Summer Welcome leaders have formed a tight bond.

“When I attended my transfer session for Summer Welcome, I absolutely loved it and knew I wanted to become a Summer Welcome Leader,” junior Summer Welcome leader Martise Harris said. “I was inspired by the energy of the previous leaders, and it made me wonder what it would be like to be in their shoes.”

Unlike Harris, sophomore Summer Welcome leader Ashley Yong’s love for MU didn’t come instantly. She was motivated to become a Summer Welcome leader because she “had to learn to love Mizzou.”

Yong said that after leaving her diverse, suburban Chicago high school and arriving at an overwhelmingly white campus, she experienced a difficult transition. She decided to apply to be a Summer Welcome leader to make the transition easier for new freshmen than it was for her.

“I want to make Mizzou feel like a home to the incoming class of freshmen and help them understand that Mizzou's organizations and resources are its strongest qualities,” Yong said. “Mizzou has almost everything you could need to succeed, but you just need to know what is available to you.”

After turning in applications and surviving three rounds of interviews, the 36 chosen leaders attended two-hour training sessions every Tuesday starting in February, along with a two-week summer training period prior to the students’ arrival. After 22 Summer Welcome sessions, the leaders say they have grown closer than they could’ve imagined.

“The Summer Welcome team is one big family,” sophomore Summer Welcome leader Gretchen Metzger said. “The unique thing about the program is although the focus is on the students 24/7, the leaders grow so close throughout the process. We all swear we will be at each others’ graduations and weddings.”

Though they spend plenty of time teaching incoming freshmen and their parents about all MU has to offer, the leaders say they’ve learned a variety of things from the experience as well.

“I’ve learned so much about the university and what makes it a special place,” Metzger said. “But beyond that, I learned how to handle delicate questions regarding diversity, the LGBTQ Resource Center and more. I learned that no two students are remotely alike and how to balance all that in one group setting and to make sure they all feel included.”

Additionally, leaders say they’ve learned life-long leadership and teamwork skills, and they were taught the hard way the importance of sleep.

“I have learned how important rest is, and how crucial self care is for a weary mind,” junior Summer Welcome leader Anthony Holtschlag said. “You can't be your best if you don't feel your best.”

Their main goal, however, is to prepare the incoming freshman class for what Holtschlag said is the best part of his life — college at MU.

“I just hope that I have given them a spark to encourage them to find all that the university has to offer and to not be afraid to embrace change and opportunity,” Holtschlag said.

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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