Monday September 3, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- A vast majority of the 480 or so freshmen who moved into dormitories at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Sunday were accompanied by mom, dad, siblings and friends.

Nick Beaudoin of Newburyport, however, was entourage-free. It was just himself, his car and all his stuff.

So it’s a safe bet that no one was more appreciative of MCLA’s program of upperclassmen helping students move into their rooms as Beaudoin, a slightly built, affable young man wearing jeans and an old T-shirt.

"I am very, very appreciative," said Beaudoin, as several red-shirted students loaded his clothes and other accessories into shopping carts and began wheeling them up to his room in the Towers.

"I had no idea the college was going to have this service," Beaudoin said. "This is great."

"Thanks," he said as one of the helpers wheeled away with a cart laden with his possessions, while he spoke to a reporter.

Sunday was move-in day at MCLA. Some freshmen were eager to get here, some were eager to bid their parents farewell and some were a little emotional.

According to MCLA Pres ident Mary K. Grant, about 125 upper classmen participated in the "Helping Hands" program by unloading cars, transferring clothing and other possessions into carts and generally giving any directions needed.

The college has been overseeing the proceedings for the past nine years, and Grant noted with pride that "it is a well-oiled process. Everyone is being helped. No one is stuck. No one feels left out.

"I was over at Hoosac Hall talking to one freshman student and in a matter of minutes, his belongings were unloaded, moved into his room, his parents hugged him and he was in and he was done. Throw in a nice day in the Berkshires and it’s a great day."

On a more serious note, Grant explained that the first day of college presents newcomers with a steep learning curve. The moving-in program is one way to level out that curve somewhat.

"It’s all about building community here," she said. "[During the first few days of college], students forge a lot of new relationships."

"It doesn’t take more than a few minutes," said Gus Aslanian, a sophomore volunteer. "The hardest part is loading the carts, probably. It’s the most tedious."

The advantage to volunteering, according to volunteer Kirstin Lynch, is that upperclassmen get to move into their own dorm rooms a few days earlier than most.

"You also get a free T-shirt," piped up Stephanie Cardeno, also a volunteer, She was referring to the red T-shirts all the volunteers are given.

It was mid-afternoon, and after a somewhat hectic morning, the newcomers had thinned out considerably. Beaudoin’s car, for example, was attended by three volunteers with carts. He didn’t have to do a thing.

"OK, great," he said, as his stuff was hustled up to his room.