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Thursday, April 18, 2024
The Observer

Office for the Common Good offers first-years opportunity to connect with peers, explore South Bend

Saint Mary’s First-Year Excursions program, started in 2019 but canceled in 2020, is again offering Saint Mary’s students a chance to explore South Bend. The program, hosted by Saint Mary’s Office for the Common Good (OCG), consists of four Mondays in which participants can— weather permitting — explore unique parts of South Bend. “It’s not a service project,” OCG director Rebekah Go said. “The only agenda we have is that we’re trying to help students feel connected to each other and feel connected to the community of South Bend.” The first excursion was planned for Monday, in which students were going to visit South Bend’s Potawatomi Zoo. However, due to Monday’s poor weather, Go said, the event was canceled. Next Monday, students will visit Howard Park, another unique spot in South Bend. Across the street from Howard Park, in the East Bank neighborhood, the students will do a mural hunt. “I’ll give them a list of murals and tell them they have to find them and take their picture, sending them to me to prove they were there,” Go said. On Nov. 8, the program’s participants will explore the Western side of South Bend, an area with a high Latino population and Polish roots. They will go to some of the abundant Mexican stores and restaurants, “and we’ll definitely hit up La Rosita,” Go said, laughing. “It has the best ice cream.” Junior Galilea Falcon said when participated on the excursion exploring West South Bend as a first-year student in 2019, she was reminded of her home in the south side of Chicago.

“I found some sort of comfort of, even though I’m not home, there’s still a little piece of South Bend that reminds me of it,” she said.

Falcon, a junior double-majoring in Spanish and social work, said she participated in the program because she was looking to engage with the South Bend community, having grown up elsewhere.

The final Monday excursion will take students to the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, which features the area’s manufacturing past.

“In 2020, we weren’t allowed to offer this program because of COVID,” Go said. “So, we’re excited to bring it back this year.”

First-year Saint Mary’s students are required to take the “Sophia Program of Liberal Learning” (SPLL) course for the first half of their first semester. The class meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday and ends at fall break.

The program schedules its excursions for Mondays after fall break, despite greater challenges from weather, to take advantage of this opening in Saint Mary’s students schedules.

Go said that the College also approved for the excursions to use Blinkie, the Saint Mary’s escort van service, which will allow the program to accommodate more students on each trip.

“I think it’s really important to be able to expose students to places that just aren’t big box stores or bars,” Go said. These places, she said, simply give students something they can find at home.

But the excursion prioritizes exploring “the parts of South Bend that really make it unique, which are sort of the parks and the local resources we have and even the local coffee shops and restaurants that you can’t find anywhere else,” Go said.

“For any first-year that comes to Saint Mary’s,” Falcon said, “I really recommend going on the first-year excursions because it’s a fun way to connect with the environment that you’re in.”