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Catawba students reunite to unearth time capsule

SALISBURY — Seven students from Dr. Julie Chamberlain’s 2012 first-year seminar course gathered on May 2 to unearth a time capsule. It was the same time capsule that their class had buried on campus back in December of 2012, at the end of their first semester of college.

In 2012, these students and their professor had one thing in common: they were all first-generation college students. In the context of their class, they spent a semester pondering “What does it mean to be first?” They explored famous firsts, looked at challenges facing first-generation students, worked to build their own social and cultural capital and even traveled as a class to Washington, D.C. over their first Christmas break. They also read the book, “The Pact,” about three African-American students from Newark who make a pact to go to med school and chronicled their individual journeys to attain that goal.

The time capsule contained a signed copy of the pact each student made, committing to each other that they would graduate from college. It also contained a copy of their classroom text, “The Pact,” along with several individual mementoes. Near the capsule, the class also planted a small white dogwood tree to both mark the spot and to remind the students that as the tree grew, so did they as individuals.

Some of the students who gathered for the unearthing will be graduating this May, while others will graduate next year.

Trevor Loudin is one of those students graduating. He attended the reunion and reflected on how meaningful his first-year seminar class was: “It was great to have a reunion with my FYS class. We’ve all come so far over the last few years and our FYS was a large contributor to our success as college students,” he said. “It provided us with a strong foundation which enabled us to achieve exceptional academic performance. Additionally, our FYS placed a strong emphasis on scholarship, character, culture and service. This emphasis positively influenced our lives throughout our wonderful time here at Catawba.”

Chamberlain said that the reunion attendees “… laughed and cried about our time together in class.  It was like we were never apart!  (The students) shared that it was one of, if not the, most important and meaningful experience that they have had at the college level.

“They talked about how they continue to apply things they learned from the class through our readings, activities and learning strategies. It was amazing!” She said.

The group enjoyed a reunion dinner together at Go Burrito before digging around the tree in the rain for about 45 minutes trying to locate the time capsule.

“The work and anticipation of finding the capsule was part of the excitement!  Seeing their faces as we pulled out special items stored in the capsule was priceless.  Some wrote notes and read them aloud — so special. … We also discovered humorous items and photos that we forgot we included. Most importantly, we read the pact that we created and signed as a class. It was a proud moment,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain noted that the whole process of developing a classroom pact “was incredible.”

“The students brainstormed in small groups at the boards and brought ideas together, funneling them down to the most important and relevant ideas for the class.  It meant a lot to these students, since it was a pact that was created by them and was unique to their goal of graduating from college. … A few students told me at our reunion that they still have their copy, with one posting it on his mirror to see every day,” she said.

In their class pact, that students said they would “promise to inspire others through our example to never give up, but instead power through any situation or challenge that life presents to us. As First Generation students we are committed to meeting our highest potential by graduating with academic excellence which is based on our consistent efforts to make good decisions, and to continuously build our social and cultural capital. This coexists with our relentless efforts to accept no excuses from ourselves or others.”

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