Toting teetering boxes, balancing arms full of bags, lugging stuffed suitcases, and pushing carts provided by University Housing, about 215 incoming freshmen–many assisted by parents and family members–settled into their on-campus digs at California State University, Dominguez Hills during Freshman Move-in Day.
“It feels pretty intimidating, but good. I haven’t been away from home for long [periods of] time, so I’m a little nervous, but excited,” said Juana Arredando Salazar of Pomona, who got moving help from her father, Ramon, mom Elia, and even her little brother, José, who was barely bigger than the bag he carried.
Parents were generally at the same emotional crossroads, as they dealt with the very tangible transition that their children were making during the August 19 event. Supportive and proud, they helped make the send-off go smoothly as their college-bound offspring stretched their wings and embarked on newfound independence.
Spoken with love, Vatima Riley of Oakland, said of her daughter Teairra Cole, “It’s kind of sad. She’s my one and only. But it’s time; she’s grown to be a beautiful young lady and she needs to explore and discover what’s out there.”
To help ease the stress of the day, Alumni and Family Programs provided free services including breakfast served by Buttermilk food truck and goodies raffled off among the more than 60 parents who signed up for the Toro Family Advocacy Network (T-FAN). Giveaways included a handy guide, “The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only-A parent’s Guide to the New College Experience,” a Stress Free Care Package that parents can later send to their children during finals week, and “Proud CSU Dominguez Hills Mom/Dad” branded items.
“Hosting the Alumni and Family Programs hospitality suite is a great opportunity for us to engage parents as soon as their students arrive at the university. We provide coffee, juice, massage, and a shoulder to cry on,” said the program’s director, Gayle Ball-Parker.
T-FAN was established last year to help CSU Dominguez Hills parents work closely with university leaders to make sure more students have access to a college education. It also connects parents who care about student success and allows them to participate and have a role in shaping campus programs that promote higher education. T-FAN also helps give parents a voice among policy makers and the community through a better understanding of local, state and national issues that impact higher education.
An emotional experience, the day also seemed to be somewhat physically exhausting for many parents and, at the same time, invigorating for many of the new residents, such as incoming English major Gabriella DiCaprio, who was making trips up and down the stairs to move into her upper-level apartment with the help of her mother Louise Belaire.
“I’m really excited to meet new people. And I like the campus–it’s really different from what I’m used to in Arizona,” the long-time Phoenix resident said of the verdant CSU Dominguez Hills grounds.
A week prior to the start of the fall semester, DiCarpio and her fellow Housing freshmen had the opportunity to meet the remaining residents. Moving in on Wednesday were transfer students, followed on Friday by returning residents. In all, the students fill to capacity the 654 housing slots, according to Eric Rollerson, director of University Housing Services.
Committed to continuous renovation aimed at providing comfortable and functional living environments for students, Rollerson reported that this summer the program purchased $125,000 worth of replacement furniture, and updated apartments with nearly $70,000 in new flooring and $40,000 in new appliances.
To help new residents adapt and have a safe and fun dorm life, Venus Lee, complex coordinator for University Housing Services, said each resident is asked to attend an orientation that provides them with information and skills on such topics as University Housing community standards, tips on living with a roommate and being neighborly, as well as how to make positive social connections and becoming involved on campus.
Four days after moving in, DiCaprio commented of meeting her new roommate, Kalani Turner, who is also a freshman, “We definitely clicked instantly. We’re really a good match. We’re actually walking over today to find [the location] of our classes and to go to the bookstore.” DiCarpio has since joined Turner on the Toro cheer squad.
Twelve resident assistants (RAs) welcomed the new residents with several social events that they organized for the first week, including a flag football game, an on-site barbecue, and free admission to an L.A. Galaxy soccer game played in the StubHub Center stadium located on the northwest corner of the campus.
“We did some icebreaker activities that helped get me closer with some of the girls in the community,” DiCaprio shared.
University Housing also provides support for its RAs.
“Throughout the year, our staff is provided personal development opportunities such as attending conferences and workshops on leading meetings, and interviewing,” Lee said. “Last year, our 12-person residential life student staff earned a 3.24 average G.P.A., one staff member completed her teaching credential, and of the three people who completed their undergraduate degree, two are currently enrolled in graduate programs.”
Housing’s ultimate goal, she added, is to provide its residents with a nurturing environment conducive to academic success and personal development. And although parents, such as Litia Wilson of Lancaster, may struggle a bit to let go of their children, they want the same.
“It’s bittersweet, but I’m grateful my daughter is going to college,” Wilson said of her daughter, Lakia Jackson, who is majoring in communications with a media studies emphasis.