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New students flock to Westmont College orientation to open school year

It was a first day of smiles and sunshine for incoming Westmont College first-year students at the school’s orientation and move-in day Thursday.

“Everyone here is just so nice,” said Jennifer Huang, a first-year student from Brazil. “[Everyone here] welcomed us in.”

This marks the first year that older students unloaded incoming cars and helped new students and their parents move belongings into the residence halls.

Orientation kicks off the new school year for Westmont, only eight months after the Thomas Fire and Montecito mud flow devastated the area nearby. Westmont was not damaged in either event, but the school was closed for weeks as the nearby flames and smoke made campus unsafe.

Westmont’s Vice President of Student Life Edee Schulze says there’s a huge difference between the feeling on campus then and now.

“Given the year that we had last year, this is a great start,” Schulze said of orientation day. “We are refreshed. We had a very good summer. We spent the last couple weeks with our student leaders… we’re just looking forward to an uninterrupted year!”

Westmont College President Gayle Beebee says last winter’s tragic events have made the college stronger.

“Last year had a grit element to it,” Beebee said. “There’s no doubt that we developed a lot of skills and perseverance.”

Beebee says he’s now thankful for the school’s opportunity to give back to the community and those who felt the effects most.

“If you aren’t harmed then it’s your opportunity and responsibility to actually help people who are in need,” Beebee said. “Challenges come in life. And if you survive the challenges, then you have the opportunity to grow stronger and to give back to others who are less fortunate.”

According to Beebee, the school plans to add on to its campus this year, and is debuting a new facility that will study artificial intelligence and its impact on society.

Westmont College says the Class of 2022 is the most racially diverse in school history. Classes for all students begin on Monday.

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