Pilot year of First CLAS is a success

First CLAS participants junior Katherine Takaoka and freshman Katricia Stewart rely on one another for support as they tightrope across a thin wire more than 40 feet in the air. This was part of the ropes course at Camp Yamhill, an activity they participated in during the First CLAS program in order to work on trust and team building. Photo courtesy of Colin Jones

This year, 30 students at Linfield involved in a new organization called First Community Leadership Action Service (CLAS) participated in a week of activities and service projects.

Sophomore Jaimie McDonald, one of the student group leaders said, “First CLAS is a freshman pre-orientation community service immersion program focused on leadership and sustainability.”

The freshmen involved, who came to school a week early, split their time between team building exercises and community service projects led by upperclassmen. The freshmen learned valuable lessons about sustainability, self care, composting and leadership, while developing friendships before most of the students even arrived.

“We’re a support system for when they get here,” said sophomore Dana Hellie, one of the student group leaders.

Besides simply learning lessons, the freshmen received hands-on experience working for community service organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Miller Woods and Yamhill Community Action Partnership.

“We each led a group of 10, took them to a service site and led them in reflections,” McDonald said. Through volunteer work, the First CLAS freshmen were able to explore McMinnville and Portland, while doing good for the community.

First CLAS isn’t all about work. They make time for play as well. McDonald said her favorite memory was when the group spent time at Camp Yamhill. They all got a chance to climb up a 35-foot pole, jump off the top and try to catch a trapeze bar, while attached to a harness. McDonald said they “really clicked as a team.” This exercise allowed them all to work together, trust in one another and help each other to conquer their fears, she said.

On the last day of First CLAS, the group took a trip to the beach to enjoy a day of unwinding with new friends. During this last day, leader and student relationships vanished.

“[Now] we’re just friends,” said Hellie. Now that the week of First CLAS is over, McDonald said that their job is “to hang out with freshmen.”

If you are interested in becoming a First CLAS leader next year, there is an application and interview process involved in becoming a leader. Applications come out in April 2012.

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Meghan O’Rourke/Opinion editor
Meghan O’Rourke can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com.

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