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Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Students and parents connect at Junior Parents Weekend

Notre Dame welcomed parents and families to campus Friday for Junior Parents Weekend (JPW), an annual celebration for juniors and any seniors who spent spring semester of their junior year abroad.

Junior Madi Purrenhage, executive co-chair of JPW, said the weekend offered an opportunity for students to relax with family members.

“It’s just a really good weekend to see all your friends,” she said. “Most people aren’t doing their homework when their parents are here, so everybody [was] focused on socializing. … I [was] really excited to see all of the work we put in and how that [played] out.”

JPW kicked off Friday with the Opening Gala throughout the Joyce Center, which Purrenhage said served as the highlight of the weekend.

“It fills up the entirety of the [Joyce Center], all that space, and there’s a photographer, several cash bars, appetizers and hors d’oeuvres and then a DJ and a dance floor,” she said. “So it’s basically a very large, moving party.”

Junior Tommy Yemc, the other executive co-chair of JPW, said he and Purrenhage began preparing for this year’s JPW last spring to make sure all the events came together.

“We chose our committee in April of last year and began very preliminary discussions about what we wanted this weekend to look like,” he said “ … With running an event of this size at an organization as large as the University of Notre Dame, logistics are always going to be an issue.”

The students and family members celebrating JPW enjoyed particularly warm weather and a smooth schedule of events, which sophomore co-chair Maureen Schweninger said in an email was an honor to observe as a sophomore and made her excited to experience the weekend next year.

“I would say the weekend was a great success,” she said. “ … Parents meeting parents, singing the Alma Mater and simply enjoying quality time with one another [were] so cool. I didn’t need to know these juniors to be touched by their experience, and I can't wait to facilitate this weekend for my own classmates next year.”

Schweninger said she hopes her work contributed to bringing students closer to their parents, and vice versa.

“I hope students came out of the weekend with a better appreciation of their parents, and also that those parents got a glimpse of how much their children have grown,” she said. “There’s a lot of ND pride at JPW. But more than that, I think it’s a great reminder of our beginnings at home, and a time for integrating that home family with our Notre Dame family.”

One highlight of the weekend for Yemc was his closing address at the Closing Brunch on Sunday, traditionally delivered by one of the JPW executive chairs.

“I feel my speech got across exactly the message that I wanted it to get across,” Yemc said in an email. “We, as juniors, are all incredibly thankful for our parents and everything they have done for us, and I believe we were able to show them that this weekend.”

The weekend also featured some impromptu moments, such as when junior Dean Merriweather delivered unscheduled remarks drawing attention to the fact that some students are unable to participate in JPW for various reasons at the brunch.

“At JPW it’s very easy to enter the Notre Dame state, the Notre Dame bubble,” he said. “ … I felt like there should be some way that not only students that don’t have parents who are able to come or can’t come or aren’t there — they should still feel welcome to come and be a part of this Junior Parents Weekend.”

One way the JPW chairs ensure as many students are included as possible is by offering tickets to any student who was abroad for the event during his or her junior year, Purrenhage said.

“The option is available for any junior who is abroad in the spring to come to their JPW the next year,” she said. “So for the architecture majors it would be their fourth year, but for everybody else it’s just their senior year. If you’re a senior year who was abroad your junior year spring, you [were] allowed to come to all of the events.”

Purrenhage said the best part of the weekend was seeing her and Yemc’s hard work come to fruition.

“JPW means a lot to a lot of people,” she said. “Knowing that Tommy and I could be a part of that, and knowing that we helped contribute to making that weekend something special for all of our friends and for all of our classmates — it really has meant a lot to us.”