Ram Welcome and Orientation Leaders lead freshmen to success

Pamela Shapiro

If there is one motto that Ram Welcome leaders stand by, it is “Rams take care of Rams.”

The Ram Welcome staff this fall was the largest in CSU history. 240 Ram Welcome leaders worked with students, according to Keith Lopez, the assistant director of Orientation and Transition Programs.

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Lopez said his office receives over 450 Ram Welcome Leader applications, and the majority of those accepted are first-time leaders. Only 20 or fewer students are chosen to return back.

“It’s a competitive position,” Lopez said. “There are a lot of people that are turned away, but people want to give back to their campus in a really unique way.”

Becoming a Ram Welcome Leader requires long hours, both in training and on the job, according to Lopez. They have 22 hours of training in two days and work about 13 hours per day during Ram Welcome.

During training, Ram Welcome Leaders practice conversations, learn the Ram Welcome dance and are mentored by Orientation Leaders in small groups, Lopez said.

“We give our Orientation Leaders a lot of responsibility during the program to really help make sure our Ram Welcome Leaders are supervised in what they’re doing,” Lopez said.

Knowing they are not receiving money, Ram Welcome Leaders accept extensive responsibility with this volunteer position. Some may do it purely to help new students adjust to the college lifestyle.

“Really, all they get is meals during the program, a Rocky Mountain Showdown ticket and a t-shirt,” Lopez said. “They’re doing this because they want to give back to CSU and they want to work with students and help them transition to CSU.”

It’s rewarding to see new students make connections and have a positive experience, Lopez said, as well as see Ram Welcome Leaders step up and grow. Lopez said that although there are no specific requirements for Ram Welcome Leaders, the overall group must represent the diversity of CSU.

“48 percent of our Ram Welcome Leaders are a part of Fraternity and Sorority Life, 12 percent of our Ram Welcome Leaders are transfer students, but there’s not one type of Ram Welcome Leader,” Lopez said.

Reid Sangster, a sophomore majoring in business, served as a Ram Welcome Leader this year in order to give back to the CSU community.

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“I was a transfer student, so I didn’t go through Ram Welcome my freshman year and I wanted to experience it,” Sangster said.

According to Sangster, Ram Welcome Leaders impact new students by making them feel comfortable and “helping them build their community.”

“I realized that I do have the power to impact lives. A small effort of just hearing someone’s story is a big deal for most people,” Sangster said.

Orientation Leaders, like senior psychology major Amanda Kelly, work closely with Ram Welcome Leaders.

“We serve as a resource for the Ram Welcome Leaders if they don’t know how to handle a certain situation,” Kelly said. “There are so many students with different backgrounds — it can be difficult,” Kelly said.

According to Kelly, being an Orientation Leader is “like a passing of the torch,” as they make sure the Ram Welcome Leaders can do their jobs.

“The most rewarding part is seeing my students from the summer make friends, and being able to provide the opportunity for them to make the friends that they are hoping to spend the next four years with,” Kelly said. “It’s an incredible experience to see the Ram Welcome Leaders grow as leaders and really connect with CSU again and become people who I am proud to share my first-year students with.”

Collegian Reporter Pam Shapiro can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @pb_shapiro.