I had the pleasure of meeting members of Plexus (a student organization that represents and serves underrepresented students from many different backgrounds) before classes started this fall and getting to bond during Inbound (which is a program for first-year students coming to campus a week before classes start to connect with fellow students with shared interests.) Many of us came from places where we either lived in cities or urban suburbs, so Huntingdon seemed a bit new to us. We experienced a multitude of activities together such as a high ropes course, exploring Lincoln Caverns, and a diversity workshop. We also almost always ate breakfast and dinner together each day of Inbound to signify a family meal
Our high ropes experience meant working cooperatively to get across obstacles to reach stable wooden platforms using wobbly and daring ropes (that’s what our brains were telling us at least.) At first, my group and I were a little nervous as we had to trust one another in order to successfully clear the course. I was pretty proud of the fact that I only fell and dangled in the air twice (once from my group mate panicking and accidentally knocking me off). Once we reached the end of the course, I got to zipline and let out a loud Tarzan yell. Once we were all on the ground and sweaty, we jumped on the bus and headed back to campus.
At night, we would all get together and participate in the Inbound activities held in Baker such as: trivia, bingo, and even karaoke! (I did a bomb performance of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” I’m sure someone has a video of it if you ask around!). Interacting and participating with other Inbound groups during these activities made a bigger impact than just interacting with member of my own group. We allowed ourselves to bond with other groups while also learning about their interests. It was a huge relief knowing that my fellow Plexans would be there to support each other once classes started. College is a completely new experience for me, and I had no clue what to expect, but three months later, here I am!
Going into a new environment with few people who represent and share similar identities can be nerve racking at times. No matter how old I get, I know I won’t always have the luxury of feeling calm and safe entering a new space. Many students who hold identities outside the “societal norm” face this issue when departing from home and attending a university or college. Coming into college as a first-year student, it is crucial to have support systems early on that can assist you in being heard and having guidance. What was different about coming to a college like Juniata was that there was a group that could provide me support whenever I needed it: Plexus.
-(Cruz)ilious Contreras-Amezcua ’23, Peace and Conflict Studies POE, proud dad-bod-wielding softie