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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Old, New Traditions Mark Start of Knox Academic Year

Pumphandle, community service, exploring Galesburg sites

September 10, 2012

Members of the Knox College community kicked off the new academic year with a blend of old and new traditions in the days leading up to the first day of class on Monday.

Orientation activities included:

  • The "First Fridays" outdoor festival in downtown Galesburg, where Knox students displayed some of their research work and socialized on Seminary Street with other Galesburg-area residents.
  • Tours of various places in the Galesburg area, including bicycle tours and visits to Knox's Green Oaks Biological Field Station, Carl Sandburg's birthplace, and historic churches.
  • A "Day of Service" involving more than 200 students who engaged in community service by volunteering with the Discovery Depot children's museum, the Orpheum Theatre, the Rock the Vote initiative, and other community partners.
  • The traditional Pumphandle event, in which all members of the Knox community greet and shake hands with one another as they form a giant, twisting line of people across campus. Pumphandle was followed by the traditional All-Campus Picnic.

"It's something you don't see every day. It's very impressive," he said.Dimitry Husen, a first-year student from Aurora, Illinois, joined the Green Oaks tour on Saturday and said he enjoyed exploring the field station with Professor Stuart Allison, who led the tour.

Several other students said they felt better informed about the area after taking the historical landmarks tour.

Elliot Witt, a first-year student from Sugar Grove, Illinois, describes himself as a "really big fan of history."

"This really made Galesburg feel like home to me," he said. "I can see what a vibrant community it is and what kind of legacy it has."

First-year student Sophia Croll, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was especially interested to see Galesburg's Central Congregational Church, which was designed in the late 1800s in the style of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. "I kept feeling that it looked familiar," she said.

Knox senior Tarere Eyimina, who helped with Saturday's historic landmarks tour, said she wished she could have gone on such a tour when she was a first-year student.

"This opportunity is so awesome," said Eyimina, a double-major in economics and international relations from Lagos, Nigeria. "The people in town seem so happy to see us here."

On Sunday, more than 200 students, faculty, and staff gathered in the lobby of the Ford Center for Fine Arts before heading out to perform community service at various locations. Knox College President Teresa Amott thanked everyone for choosing to spend their time helping others.

"You're part of a national movement of service," she said, noting that students at other colleges also participate in similar volunteer initiatives.

The thinking behind those initiatives is straightforward. When students choose the college where they will spend the next four years, Amott said, "they should really get to know the place and they should serve it and they should treat it as a second home."

"We are doing exactly that with Galesburg."

More than a dozen of the Knox volunteers gravitated to Rock the Vote, a program created to encourage young people to become politically engaged. Knox students Gretta Reed, president of the Knox Democrats, and Alex Uzarowicz, president and founder of the Knox Conservatives, co-led the discussion, which included making plans to offer voter-registration training to students.

Once trained, Reed said, those students could work to make sure more Knox students -- and perhaps other area residents -- are registered to vote.

"I think to be an active citizen in a community, you should be registered to vote," Uzarowicz said. "That's where your participation begins. For us to be doing this, it goes along with serving the community."

One of the students in the group, Knox senior Rup Sarkar, said Rock the Vote is "a good way of getting people with different opinions to talk to each other, without arguing, and just being respectful, which is especially important in this critical election."

Several other Knox volunteers headed to the Orpheum Theatre, where they painted set pieces for theatrical productions and did other work. They collaborated with other volunteers from the Galesburg area, including students from Carl Sandburg College.

"It's been really nice to get to know people who are in the community and not just with Knox," said Jessica Brode, a senior from Wausau, Wisconsin.

Sunday afternoon's Pumphandle was the first for Brittanie Corner, a transfer student from Chicago, Illinois.

"It was like a maze because you didn't know where the line was going," she said.

She said she enjoyed meeting so many members of the Knox community, "even if it's just for half a second. It gives you that personal feel, especially when you're away from home."

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