CORVALLIS, Ore. - For college freshmen, the first week on campus can be scary and isolating, full of new rules, new expectations and a lot of new faces.
And for students of color arriving in a predominantly white community, those feelings can be amplified. That's why Oregon State University created Black Connect Week and Conexiones - to help ease the transition for African American and Latino students coming to campus, and to help those students identify ways that they can make their college experience successful.
While each program runs concurrently and is aimed at a separate group of minority students, there are some shared events, including a culminating concert Oct. 25.
LaJames Sweet, a senior in ethnic studies at OSU, President of the Ethnic Studies Student Association and the Ujima Education Office <http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ujima/> Promise Program Intern Coordinator, knows what it's like to make that transition. He came to Corvallis from Santa Rosa, Calif.
"I went through a bunch of emotional changes," he said, in adjusting to life on campus. Now he's coordinating Black Connect Week 2009, and hopes to provide freshmen with many tools that will help them thrive at OSU.
"As a minority coming to a (majority) white campus, you can feel left out," Sweet said. "The purpose of Black Connect Week and Conexiones is to let incoming freshmen know we care."
From Sept. 20 through Sept. 26, just before classes begin, participants in Black Connect Week and Conexiones will participate in a variety of events on campus that will introduce them to organizations, individuals and activities that will give students a chance to experience some of the options open to them at OSU.
"We want them to stay at OSU," Sweet said. "If they get involved in campus life, they'll stay longer."
While activities range from a student panel to a discussion with OSU Women's Basketball Coach LaVonda Wagner, one of the activities Sweet is most excited about is the Oct. 25 concert that is being co-hosted by Black Connect Week and Conexiones to bring students together.
The concert, which begins at 9 p.m. at Club Escape on campus, includes live performances by Mysterious, Black Duck, Traumatize Immortal and DJ Amazon, and will be hosted by Sweet. The artists were chosen because of their socially conscious music, and the event is both cultural and entertaining.
"We want freshmen to celebrate with music, friends and dancing," Sweet said. "We've worked hard to make it fun for incoming freshmen."
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LaJames Sweet, 541-250-9194