Louise Dolby

Since 1957, the San Luis Obispo community has opened its arms to thousands of new students during a unique week-long orientation program known as the Week of Welcome.

This year, WOW was the largest volunteer orientation program to date with over 3,000 freshmen participating in activities on and off campus, including a community service opportunity allowing students to give something back to their new neighborhood.

“There were a lot of additional and unexpected students who participated in WOW, more than ever before, but we were able to accommodate them,” said Cameron Wangsgard, engineering junior and WOW team member said. “The week went really great for all the leaders and incoming students, and doing community service was a really good way to get new students working with the community as soon as they move here.”

Nearly 1,000 WOWies and WOW leaders collaborated with Student Community Services (SCS) on projects at the El Camino Homeless Organization, EOC Headstart Preschool, United Way of SLO County, the Woods Humane Society, the YMCA and many other local organizations.

“It was tough work but my WOWies were excited to help,” said architecture senior and three-time WOW leader Carl Payne. “It was kind of dirty but at the end of the day we were all happy to give back to the community and it was definitely a rewarding experience.”

Students not only helped the local community, but also raised money for the Red Cross to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. Many WOW groups participated in a stuffed animal drive for Hugs Across America by donating about 2,000 stuffed animals to the Red Cross-affiliated organization.

“These community service activities effectively complement WOW’s efforts to instill a sense of community pride and respect in new Cal Poly students,” WOW executive board member Jason Mockford said. “I think the program definitely tries its best to show new students everything that San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly have to offer.”

In addition to the community service day, students participated in other activities including a tour of downtown called SLO-Bound, a voter registration drive, a hypnotist show, a slam poetry night, an awareness day and a campus block party showcasing many of Cal Poly’s clubs. The campus block party was created to introduce students to some of the many activities that freshmen can get involved in during the school year.

“The block party was the highlight for my WOWies because they got to learn all about the clubs on campus, and they were really excited about the concert at the end,” Payne said.

Local bands Longview and Sherwood entertained students as they visited various booths and mingled with upper classmen. Ozomatli, a band whose sound fuses Latin and hip-hop, closed the week of events on Friday evening.

 “WOW really got me oriented to the city,” child development freshman Emily Golden said. “I also got to know a few people from my group and I have a great relationship with my WOW leader now.”

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