McDaniel Local students return to community, receive Westminster welcome

First-year students pass by JeannieBird Baking Company on their way downtown on Saturday, August 24. (Marya Kuratova/McDaniel Free Press).

On Saturday, Aug. 24, first-year students and peer mentors followed President Roger Casey down Main Street. For most students, however, this was not their first introduction to the Westminster community.

Ninety-eight percent of the incoming class participated in McDaniel Local, the fairly new three-day, two-night summer program introducing first-year students to McDaniel and downtown Westminster before classes even start. As an ongoing effort to better unite the College with the surrounding community, McDaniel Local included volunteer hours at the Boys & Girls Club and lunch at local restaurants.

Now back on campus for the fall semester, students returned to Main Street Saturday morning to revisit their favorite businesses. Students gathered outside the Westminster Public Library to meet the Green Terror and enjoy music from Rachel Gunnerson and Jake Fine, leaders of McDaniel’s Live Music Club, before hearing from Casey, Associate Dean of Campus and Community Engagement Josh Ambrose, Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick, and several local business owners and community members.

Dominick, a McDaniel alumnus, briefly shared his experience at the College and how it brought him to serve and love the community today, urging students not to hesitate when pursuing opportunities McDaniel and downtown Westminster can offer.

“You are all just starting this journey and it can take you so many different places,” Dominick said. “especially since downtown is so intertwined with the College.”

Christina Kuntz, branch manager of the Westminster Public Library, also took the time to welcome the incoming class. Kuntz shared ongoing plans to convert the library’s 14-thousand-square-foot basement into a common meeting room and “maker space” with 3D printers, audio equipment, and culinary centers. With an anticipated completion in fall of 2020, the Exploration Commons will be available for the class of 2023 in their second year at McDaniel.

Then, students heard from Atlas Premier Realty owner Greg Brock, who also encouraged students to keep visiting Main Street.

“Explore downtown, pop in to businesses, and take the opportunity to get to know business owners for employment opportunities,” he advised. “Make the best of your time and get off the Hill to introduce yourself.”

Finally, Cultivated boutique owner Tiombe Paige shared her enthusiasm for welcoming the incoming class.

“We are so excited to weave you into the fabric of what we call home,” Paige said.

Paige reminded students that the Boys & Girls Club is always looking for interns and “a number of businesses want to extend a warm welcome.”

As Rachel Gunnerson and Jake Fine took to the stage again, students were encouraged to spend McDaniel Bucks at participating restaurants for lunch, visit an ice cream truck, and stop by the farmer’s market. Nearly two dozen downtown businesses offered discounts and free giveaways and students were encouraged to stamp a “passport” at each participating business for the chance to win 50 dollars.

This “Westminster Welcome” event is now in its second year.