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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

‘Explore the Bend’ helps Saint Mary’s students connect outside of campus

Saint Mary’s students will now be able to attend a new program called “Explore the Bend” that involves getting off campus and visiting the city of South Bend. The club met for the first time at St. Patrick’s County Park on Sunday for the group’s first acitivity — a hike.

Assistant director of the Office for Civic and Social Engagement Kris Choinacky lived in South Bend all of her life and has always wanted to share her love for this town with students.

“The goal of the Office of Civic and Social Engagement is to explore, connect and serve the community,” Choinacky said.

St. Patrick’s County Park is located off Auten Road down Laurel Road. The county park was originally owned by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in the 1800s. They kept the land as a farm to produce food for the College until the ’70s when they sold it to the city to become a county park. While it is now open to the public as a place to hike, canoe and even kayak, the history still remains.

“The foundation these women [laid] should empower us to continue to be leaders ourselves,” Choinacky said.

When students first arrived for the hike, they were greeted by a ranger who told them about the history of the farm and where they could explore on the property. After the introductions, students walked the perimeter of the park.

Unique features of the park include a tiki hut made completely out of branches, cabins for rent and a view of a bald eagle nest. First year Courtney Simmons said the actual walk itself was relatively easy, and she enjoyed the sites and greenery. Simmons is looking for new clubs to join as a first year and was excited to join this program.

“I’m a huge outdoors person, and it’s very peaceful to get away from campus and spend time with other girls,” Simmons said.

Simmons also said she learned something new from the whole experience and plans on attending more “Explore the Bend” events in the future.

The event was particularly conducive to adhering to COVID-19 regulations, as people could physical distance while getting to know each other, the town surrounding the College and the College’s history.

During the hike, senior Vianney Acosta said she was reminded of the first time she explored South Bend on an informal trip. She said she not only enjoyed the time to connect more with the community outside of campus, but she also liked that she got to learn more about Saint Mary’s.

Acosta and senior Tyler Davis came on the trip together hoping to get away from the stress of academics.

“I’m feeling pretty stressed because I’m taking 18 credits this semester,” Davis said. “This was a nice change of pace.”