DOVER — The main entrance was closed, but Delaware State University was never so welcoming as Wednesday morning.
Incoming freshmen and parents were diverted from U.S. 13 to a side entrance off College Road to limit traffic congestion, and greeted warmly,
Gripping a megaphone and wearing a striped headband and bright red shirt in school colors, senior Markese Elliott greeted each arriving vehicle with an enthusiasm clearly fueled by school pride.
Several sign holding student leaders and nearly 30 pom pom waving cheerleaders heartily joined the senior from Brooklyn, New York in chanting, dancing and acknowledging the newcomers for nearly three hours. Then they headed to the dormitories to assist in the actual move-in process in what’s an annual university tradition.
‘Good vibe started’
“We definitely want to get a good vibe started as soon as they arrive, and create a positive energy that will begin today and last through their entire time here,” Mr. Elliott, a sports management major, said during a quick break.
The greeters were eating breakfast at 6:30 a.m. in order to meet the first arrivals and Mr. Elliott explained “you’ve got to be ready at any time of the day, no matter how early it is, to meet your responsibilities and make a positive impact in other people’s lives.”
While every moment should be savored, Mr. Elliott said, the future DSU products have plenty to look forward to if they buy in to the culture.
“When you leave here you can make your own mark on the world, will be well prepared and have all the tools necessary to be a leader in some field of your own choosing,” he said.
First things first, though, for incoming freshmen. Jamila Seidu, from Frederica, stood apprehensively near a keyboard readying to confirm her fall classes inside the Claibourne D. Smith Administration Building.
‘Nervous but excited’
“I feel nervous but excited at the same time,” the kinesiology major said. “It’s kind of nerve wracking to wonder if I’ll be able to handle my classes, avoid procrastination, all that.”
Later, Ms. Seidu said she was meeting her freshman roommate in person after corresponding through email leading up to move-in day. She enjoyed the warm greeting upon arrival.
“I just loved that,” she said.
Classes begin Monday. Though the final number of freshman class members is still to be determined, spokesman Carlos Holmes said that the number is expected to be larger than the 951 in 2017.
Gathering some belongings in the parking lot, Diane Green was nearing the point of leaving her granddaughter on campus and heading home to Philadelphia. She took some solace in her granddaughter’s apparent readiness to begin the college life.
“She’s really, really ready to go start this and has been for awhile now,” Ms. Green said.
The freshman’s sister Rhonda Scippio said “there was a lot going on today,” but “to see her happy is my dream. It’s hard, but we’ll see her again.”
Contemplating the life moment, Ms. Green and Ms. Scippio monetarily grew slightly emotional before their smiles returned.
“I’ve never really had to say goodbye to her because she’s always been nearby,” Ms. Green said. “I was there when she was born, remember her first day of kindergarten and watched her full-time when her parents were out working and earning a living. I’m OK now but it might not be that way when we get in the car and begin to drive out of here.”
Describing the freshmen as taking a “huge new step in life,” junior Tahjah Warner said good times awaited.
“I can remember feeling overwhelmed when getting here but then quickly meeting people who welcomed me and helped me fit in,” the accounting major said.
Senior Jani’a King of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority recalled being confused about campus directions early on and “some random person would come up and direct me the right way.”
Returning the favor
Now, Ms. King can return the favor. She was among the students who greeted the arrivals at the front of campus.
“Here at DSU it’s like a big family,” she said. “We wanted to show our faces today and let them know that there are plenty of people here to help.”
And what can the new kids expect to learn during their time in school?
“So many things,” Ms. King said. “How to be independent. How to have fun while still keeping the grades up.
“How to reach out to new people and make friends.
“The opportunity to experience a HBCU. How to network, network, network. How to figure out a career path. There’s athletics, there’s clubs, there’s service groups.
“There’s a real sense of unity and teamwork that comes with being here in this school community.”