With more than 9,000 new and returning students moving into the residence halls at the same time, August has the potential to be a little chaotic. Armed with moving carts, friendly smiles, water bottles, and helping hands, Hokie Helpers aim to take the stress out of moving to Virginia Tech.
“Hokie Helpers transform the arduous task of move-in into a celebration of welcome for our new Hokies, as well as those returning to on-campus housing,” said Kenneth Belcher, senior associate director of housing services for the Division of Student Affairs.
Hokie Helpers are stationed near residence halls across campus during move-in days. Dressed in blue shirts, these volunteers provide directions and information, welcome new students and their families, check out moving carts, unload vehicles, carry belongings, and offer refreshments.
“It is really gratifying to help make a family’s first Hokie experience a positive one,” said Sandy Broughton, the division’s assistant director for communications and marketing. “I’ve been volunteering for Hokie Helpers for several years, and I’ve met people from all over. I’ve met all kinds of families moving in all kinds of things with all degrees of elation or exhaustion. It’s nice to be involved in such a pivotal moment in their lives.”
While many faculty and staff members volunteer their time, students and student organizations made up a large percentage of the 1,200 volunteers in August 2012.
“It is the embodiment of Ut Prosim,” said Belcher, referring to the university’s motto, That I May Serve. “We have had students who received assistance moving on Wednesday of move-in week turn right around and volunteer their time and energy for the next three days helping others.”
Some students return to the Hokie Helpers team year after year. Others become even more involved, serving on the Hokie Helpers planning committee and working with the Division of Student Affairs to continue to improve move-in.
“I really wanted to become involved with Hokie Helpers after my first move-in as a first-year student,” said Weston Michael of New Hope, Pa., a junior majoring in applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The first few days as a first-year student are crucial, and Hokie Helpers become the initial link between campus and the students. When I was moving in, many of the students helping out had tips on how I might want to arrange my room and the best way to organize my belongings.”
The program is about more than physical assistance and helpful information, though. Hokie Helpers set the tone for new students’ Virginia Tech experience to be one of service, belonging, and community involvement.
“Typically, when you think of moving, you think about your family being around to help you and lend a hand,” Michael said. “What is so interesting about Hokie Helpers is that while moving might be a family process, the other students helping are there to remind you that you are now part of a larger community and a new family.”
In addition, volunteers help create an atmosphere in which students and their families feel comfortable and welcome.
“Each year we receive thank you notes from parents telling us how our welcome made their arrival to campus smoother and less stressful,” Belcher said. “When you start off right, all of the other challenges of starting a new experience such as college and living on campus are easier to handle.”
Hokie Helpers talk about why they got involved with the program in this video.
See a photo gallery from the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Maroon and orange is the perfect color combination for Hokies. But Hokie Helpers wear blue shirts to help them stand out in a sea of parents, alumni, and new and returning students all wearing maroon and orange during opening weekend.
Look through previous Spotlight stories