The biggest and most accomplished class in Saint Mary's College history arrived on campus last week and plunged into campus life in a event-filled Weekend of Welcome that included a pool party, a New Orleans-style carnival and ice skating on Ferroggiaro Quad.

The new class of 695 incoming freshmen and 215 transfer students includes 137 honor students-a 44 percent increase over last year.

After a busy move-in day on Thursday, Aug. 26, the welcome activities began with a new event – a barbecue dinner on the campus lawn for the students and their parents. After dinner, "The Bells of Saint Mary's" played from the Chapel tower and the new students left their parents to join their peers. Finally, as "We Are Family" played on loudspeakers, Maisha Beasley, director of New Student and Family Programs, bid farewell to the families until Parent/Family Weekend in October.

At the academic convocation on Friday morning, Brother Ronald introduced the incoming students to the Saint Mary's tradition of inquiry and Brother Camillus delivered the benediction. Michael Beseda, vice president for enrollment and for College communications, described the new undergrads as "the most exceptional class to ever enter Saint Mary's College," based on their academic, athletic and community achievements. Student body president Freddie Silveria advised the class of 2014 to "experience new things, open your minds to new perspectives, have fun and always remember where you come from."

After the convocation, students got to know each other at a Playfair ice-breaker and a transfer student dinner, then took in a show by spoken-word artist Ise Lyfe on this year's Weekend of Welcome theme-Imagine…Nation. The final event of the day was a Summer ICE-land skating party.

The events were a big hit with the incoming freshmen. "Playfair was a really good way to create the long-standing community that Saint Mary's has," said Hannah Stanfield. She knew about that even before she came to campus. Her sister, April Mollinelli, graduated from SMC in 1999, and she said, "I have a couple more sisters at home who'll probably come to Saint Mary's."

All the events "helped me to meet new people," said Julie George. "I've really enjoyed Weekend of Welcome, especially Ise Lyfe and the ice skating." Sean Hudgins agreed, saying, "Ise Lyfe was awesome."

On Saturday, many students participated in Saturday of Service projects, working on landscaping and cleanup projects at parks in Oakland and Alameda, serving meals to homeless people at the Saint Vincent de Paul Free Dining Room, packing up donated items for a school in New Orleans, and harvesting produce from Saint Mary's own Legacy Garden. After all that work, their reward was a pool party and a New Orleans-style carnival.

The weekend wrapped up on Sunday with a high-tech "SCVNGR hunt" that required students to follow text messages to make their way around three Bay Area cities, a final barbecue and a Mass.

"Its hectic at first, but once I got in the groove its been really fun," said Kyle Volk, whose older brother and sister also studied at Saint Mary's. "I was all nervous, but it got you going and helped me meet people. It got me excited for the next four years."

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