UMF dorm Community Assistants L-R: Erika Crawley, Sierra Tarbox, Sam Urszingya, Katie Franke, Kaden Pendleton, Portia Hardy. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

FARMINGTON — About four hundred freshmen and their families descended on the University of Maine at Farmington last Saturday.

The weather was perfect, which was lucky considering the stacks of boxes, pillows, and suitcases lining the sidewalk. Governor Janet Mills, Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin and Farmington’s State Representative Scott Landry were on hand to welcome and encourage a new generation of future educators.

With Main Street Farmington consisting of three routes (4, 27 and 43) of major traffic and logging trucks, the scene could have been chaos. But it wasn’t. And UMF’s returning student population is a big reason for that.

UMF dorm Community Assistants L-R: Duncan Farley, Kate Graeff, Christin DeStephen, Aurora Thumelle, Kendra Burgess, Cait Davidson. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

New students unloaded their vehicles and huddled around their belongings with one or more kin while mom or dad zoomed off to park the car and leave room for the next one. Volunteers were right there to usher the freshmen into Scott Hall, where a team of Community Assistants (CAs) were waiting to help, answering questions, providing forms (like emergency contact) to be completed and collecting them. Once each new student passed that first gauntlet, a CA would direct him or her through a corridor where a second team was ready to process the next steps and hand over the key for the freshman’s dorm room.

Student volunteers with utility carts greeted incoming freshman at UMF’s Orientation Day. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

It didn’t end there. The freshman student would be sent outside, deposited back to his family waiting with his pallet’s worth of belongings. How to move all that stuff? With help from a platoon of volunteers clad in blue t-shirts, loading and pulling utility carts, carrying boxes and answering more questions.

“UMF understands the unique challenges of transitioning to college life,” said Mary Ellms, UMF coordinator of First-Year Experience and this year’s Orientation. “We strive to help all students feel welcome and supported as soon as they arrive. This starts with a friendly reception from faculty, staff, and students on Move-In Day and continues in various forms throughout the academic year.”

This is UMF Junior Christine Destephen’s first semester as a CA and she is enthusiastic about the role.

“Basically, we are walking resources for freshmen,” she said. “We don’t just work in the dorms. Wherever we are, any student that has a question or needs help can approach us.”

Junior Cait Davidson agreed. “It’s fun being here for others. I like to help out, I like to meet new people and being a CA is a great way to do that.”

UMF’s 2019 freshman class had a lot of help getting settled on the first day of their education careers. And probably no one was more relieved at the hard work UMF volunteers put into it than the parents dropping their kids off.

Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin and Maine State Representative Scott Landry take a break with UMF student volunteers at Purington Hall on Saturday, Aug. 31. Franklin Journal photo by Nicole Carter

“I moved my daughter in today,” posted parent Jennifer Edwards on UMF’s Facebook page. “The move went smoothly and it seemed there were so many people there willing to help and answer our questions. Plus unloading and getting things into her dorm was so easy with people helping to unload the car and carry it all to the room. A BIG thank you to everyone who helped out today. You all did an amazing job with great big smiles on your faces.”


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