Close your eyes and try to remember your first day of school at The University of Southern Mississippi. Whether that day was yesterday or three years ago, try to remember it. I certainly remember mine.
The band was playing outside all afternoon, along with the Dixie Darling practice that I stood and watched for at least 20 minutes. There were a bunch of people dressed in black and gold asking if I needed help – I’m assuming I looked lost. I got a parking ticket the first day of class because I parked in a faculty and staff zone – and to no one’s surprise – it was raining.
But the main thing that stood out to me were all the GEWW Crew members that looked familiar from the few days before. Those members stood out in my mind that day – and to this day – still do.
Golden Eagle Welcome Week kicked off on August 18, 2013 and lasted until August 20, 2013. This three-day period changed my life.
Golden Eagle Welcome Week, better known as GEWW, is an event – full of events – to help freshmen and transfer students learn more about being a Golden Eagle. These incoming students are put into “GEWW Groups” that are led by two GEWW Crew members.
I had the opportunity to be a GEWW Crew member this year and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off my senior year of college.
I showed up for training bright and early on a Thursday, where I met my GEWW partner, Rhea Phillips Valentine. Her compassionate heart, sweet spirit, and love for Southern Miss is unmatchable and working with her was the highlight of my year.
So, now we’ll fast forward to Sunday. I met my GEWW Group for the first time. I got nervous, excited, and suddenly just felt this connection to them that I’d never felt before. In that moment, it hit me. I’d immediately become responsible for 25 students and not only was I supposed to keep them safe, but I was supposed to keep them excited and engaged for three days straight.
Rhea and I started off our first meeting by teaching our group a cheer. We, of course, chose Booty Pop. Most of the students in our group just stared at us. But on day three, almost everyone in our group knew the words and booty popped with us.
We even made up a cheer for our group number, which was 52, and at the closing pep rally, when they called our group, we yelled that cheer loud and proud. It warmed my heart to see the enthusiasm that had grown in my group over that three day period.
I got the chance to really get to know some of the members in my group. It was nice talking about campus involvement and my love for Southern Miss to all of them.
I got to witness a friendship truly blooming between two of my members, who didn’t know each other prior to GEWW. Some of the more quiet members in my group became the most outspoken by day three.
I honestly can’t wait to see how my group, and all the groups, grow and get involved and truly make Southern Miss their own.
I’ve gotten a lot of texts from different members of my group asking where buildings are, what certain abbreviations mean and when certain classes start. It’s been awesome being a source of information and someone they feel like they can come to for help. It is such an incredible feeling to know that my love and knowledge for Southern Miss is being transferred to these students.
Something many people may not know is that being a GEWW Crew leader doesn’t stop after GEWW.
Each group has a group on Facebook where the GEWW Crew members will stay in contact with their GEWW group throughout the year. I love that we get to do this because I feel like I’ve grown so close to these students over the three days I’ve had with them.
I wanted to be a part of GEWW Crew because I love my Southern Miss, I wanted to serve USM and leave it better than I found it. I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life and make the transition from high school to college a lot easier for students. I love this university with every ounce of my being. I’ve always felt like I belonged here, that this was my home. Being given the opportunity to help incoming students find their place and make Southern Miss a home away from home is something I will never forget and definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career.