Incoming Verrazano students enjoy a day of team-building on the College’s Great Lawn.

The Verrazano School held its Freshmen Orientation for the Class of 2015 last month. The Orientation program was comprised of workshops orienting the students to campus resources as well as activities designed to build community among the approximately 80 entering freshmen. 

Professor Charles Liu, Director of The Verrazano School, welcomed the new Verrazano students in the morning. He encouraged them to take advantage of all that CSI and The Verrazano School have to offer, meet with professors, ask questions, and declare a major when they know what they would like to study.  Perhaps most importantly, Professor Liu told the students, “You are in charge of your education. You are capable of great things, and you will achieve great things if you actively pursue the opportunities available to you here.” 

The incoming freshmen were divided into several groups and spent half of the day taking part in team-building exercises such as “The Web” and “Pipeline” with Project U.S.E.–an experiential education organization that has facilitated the teambuilding component of the Verrazano Orientation for four years. In “The Web,” a favorite among the participants, students navigated their way through a web made up of several ropes. The exercise required cooperation and problem-solving and helped the students get to know each other through the process.  Likewise, “Pipeline” tasked the students with running a small ball through a series of pipes. Each student is given a short length of “pipe” and in order to reach the finish line, students must take turns carrying their segment to the end of the pipe, allowing the ball to roll through.  

The students, a bit hesitant at first, quickly warmed up to each other and started to form friendships within their respective learning communities. As a cohort, this class of students will be spending the next four years taking classes, studying, working, and eventually, graduating together. “The orientation is intended not only to provide information about CSI and The Verrazano School but also to help them begin to establish relationships with peers and develop a sense of community and belonging here,” said Katie Geschwendt, Coordinator of The Verrazano School. 

Many of the students are Staten Island residents who were looking for a great education close to home and most graduated at or near the tops of their classes.  Jeffrey Bender, an incoming student who is planning on studying Pre-Med, quickly understood the purpose of the exercises. “They want us to work together,” he said.  “We’ll be spending a lot of time together and this is good because it makes sure even the shy kids make friends.”  

The students in The Verrazano School receive the extra benefit of smaller class sizes as well as priority registration. What really attracted many of the students to the school was the ability to perform research with experts, starting on day one. “I can’t wait to get into the lab and start studying things I really care about,” said Nick Galati, another incoming freshman.  

Along with Prof. Liu, 2011 CSI valedictorian Melissa Horne was on hand to welcome students in the morning as well as speak with them during the lunch break. Horne, a graduate of The Verrazano School, cited the smaller class sizes and the ability to work directly with professors as her motivation for applying to The Verrazano School. “The professors are great and they really want to help.” She even added a little extra motivation for the students in attendance by saying, “everyone who was a magna cum laude finalist graduated from either The Verrazano School or Macaulay Honors program. I guarantee someone in this room will be valedictorian in four years.” 

As if to validate Melissa’s point, one of the students pointed across the room, “my high school’s valedictorian and salutatorian are here.”  

As the students headed toward their next event, Merlin Raj, the 2011 class valedictorian at Susan Wagner High School, excitedly spoke of her reasons for applying to the Verrazano School. “The program is great, I like the fact that they help guide you every step of the way while still treating you like an adult.”  

During the next four years, much will be expected from the students entering The Verrazano School this fall, and while every student is excited about the prospect of working closely with professors, engaging in research and internship opportunities, and studying with like-minded individuals, they made sure to not put too much pressure on themselves. “I’m going to have as much fun as possible this summer,” said Jessica B., one of the incoming students. “I know that once we start in September, I’ll be working really hard. I expect great things.”