September 3, 2021 | NEWS | By Iona Ellsworth | Photo by Oliver Kraft

This year, the Colorado College New Student Orientation (NSO) looked a little different. As opposed to embarking on traditional Priddy trips scattered throughout the Southwest, first years and their student leaders participated in customary bonding activities and community service locally. 

Thanks to this pandemic-related pivot, new students got the chance to connect within the immediate Colorado Springs community — an opportunity that classes before them did not have to the same extent. 

“[In college], it is important to understand the place you are living in,” NSO intern Arity Sherwood ’22 said. “By having Priddy locally this year, we were able to explore and immerse ourselves into Colorado Springs more than in the past, which is really nice for understanding where we live.” Students got to explore downtown Colorado Springs as part of the Cultural Day, visiting a variety of sites unique to the city.

“It was a great opportunity for students to see more of where they are going to be living for the next four years,” Meghna Bagchi ’23 said. “I think that’s really important because unless you’re from Colorado Springs, you have very little idea of what downtown is like, and all the things there are to explore.” 

Bagchi took her Priddy group to one of her own favorite haunts from her first year called Pikes Peak Lemonade, where she and her co-leader got them set up with their own personal mason jars and straws. “Having upperclassmen show [students] their favorite places was a really great bonding moment,” Bagchi said.

First-years also appreciated a trip to the local Olympic museum. 

“The museum was a fun, interactive way to see the city,” Karla Soto ’25 said. “I really liked how the Olympic museum helped me visualize how high a diver [dove from].”

Students also participated in scavenger hunts using murals and statues located around the city, giving them a flavor of the cultural attractions Colorado Springs boasts outside of campus.

The outdoors has always played a significant role during Priddy trips, with students participating in everything from gardening to trail maintenance. NSO organizers took advantage of Colorado Springs’ extensive network of mountain trails by taking students to Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Red Rock Canyon Open Space for day hikes. 

Some students even discovered a newfound appreciation for Colorado Springs’ impressive mountainscapes. “I’m not a hiker, so it was a new experience, but it was really beautiful,” Marley Lowe ’25 said.

Students learned about the importance of taking care of these public outdoor spaces. Mattie Valinsky ’25 was part of a group who picked up trash at a disc golf course. “People were getting into it and wanted to make sure they really got the space cleaned up because it was a really beautiful community space,” she said. “Some of my group members even got in the river and rolled up their pants!” 

Lowe had a similar experience, reflecting: “I enjoyed the trash clean-up a lot more than I thought I was going to. Now I know it’s an ongoing process, and it’s definitely something that I think I might want to revisit now that I’ve done it once.”   

This year’s on-campus format created an increased sense of place and belonging for students. 

“I do think that staying local has helped the incoming students get more comfortable on campus than in past years. This year, the new students were able to have over a week on campus before classes began, while in past years, students have only had a few days. I think that staying local has allowed the first years to create a closer community, which is really cool,” Sherwood said.

Priddy’s core objectives of creating a welcoming and educational environment for incoming students remained the same despite the challenges wrought by the pandemic. The emphasis the pandemic placed on CC’s home base has given organizers food for thought when it comes to planning Priddy in the future. 

Although certain students are eager to return to the more remote camping trips of pre-pandemic days, Sherwood said that “having to so drastically change the entire Priddy experience has allowed us to re-think what Priddy is, and what works and doesn’t work.” 

Perhaps the program might opt to keep some of the more localized trips in the future, offering students the possibility of kickstarting their time at CC by investing more deeply in the Colorado Springs community as a whole.

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