Homecoming 2004 begins in grand fashion

From carnivals on the Rock to a citywide volunteer project, Homecoming 2004 is in full swing. On Friday, student organizations flooded the Rock, transforming it into a sea of festive T-shirts, posters and hats for the Homecoming opening ceremonies. Omicron Delta Kappa [ODK], one of the most prestigious honor societies on campus, signaled the official beginning of Homecoming with the ringing of the ODK bell, a long-standing tradition. Jason Starr, Homecoming chair, gave recognition to his committee and sponsors who made the event possible, before reading out the roll-call list of organizations participating in the Homecoming competition.

A mini-carnival was held shortly after, with food and games like human foosball, a pitcher’s tent and arcade basketball. Karaoke and a disc jockey transformed the Rock into a dance floor.

On Saturday, about 800 students woke up early to participate in one of the largest events in Homecoming: Hurricanes Help the Hometown [HHTH]. HHTH is a day where the student body gives back to the Miami community by spending the day volunteering community service at different sites in need of a helping hand.

“This is the largest volunteer event on campus every year, and it impacts so many people at one time,” said Marc O’Connor, homecoming chair for non-competing personnel. “It gets the message across that volunteering is important and you got to go out and help your community while you’re in college, even if you didn’t live here.”

The approximately 34 different HHTH sites ranged from Habitat for Humanity to retirement homes.

“I went to the Tropical Audubon Society, and we basically helped them with their renovation so they could display more of the plants and the wildlife that’s natural to Miami,” Paty Escuder, junior, said. “So we picked out a lot of the weeds that were exotic. It was an amazing experience – I would absolutely do it again next year.”

Students lent a hand to the kids in the community, volunteering in children’s homes and other kid-oriented sites.

“I went His House, which is a Christian-based home for children who have been abused or abandoned,” Humberto Ortega, sophomore, said. “We washed the cars, inside and out, that the resident moms and dads use to transport the kids. I thought that the organization was amazing. They really provide a stable home for all the children that are obviously going through a lot of problems.”

“I went to the Bake House, [an art complex housing 70 artists and rentable studios] in downtown. We set up a Halloween carnival for all the kids, with arts and crafts, costume design, face painting, and story telling,” Jovanni Bello, junior, said. “I enjoyed it. It was nice helping out the kids from the community.”

Students even volunteered at local churches, helping them set up for various festivities. Patrice Mincey, site leader, went to Wayside Baptist Church, where she helped set up their Harvest Hoedown, a carnival for kids.

It was a good experience, because we could actually see the work being done and know that it’s going to actually be used,” Mincey said. “It was very rewarding.”

It seems that every participant could agree that the day was rewarding.

“It is a day of hard and dirty work. We do not sugarcoat the fact that students get sweaty and tired,” said Ariana Minatelli, HHTH chair in charge of Greek participation and recruitment. “But they can also expect a deep thankfulness from the people that they are helping, and hopefully get a greater appreciation for what they have.”

Christine Dominguez can be contacted at c.dominguez3@umiami.edu.