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Orientation Leaders Set the Tone for the College Experience

Meet three of the friendly faces greeting incoming students at the beginning of their Syracuse University journeys.
Three students in orange polo shirts standing together on Shaw Quadrangle.

(From left) Jordan Avinoam ’25, Melanie Salas ’24 and Raven Campbell ’24 are orientation leaders (OL) at Syracuse Welcome. As OLs, they lead small group programs, provide mentorship and guidance, and act as campus role models.

For one week in August, first-year students arrive at the Syracuse University campus and get ready to start their college careers. The first step on their Orange journey is participating in Syracuse Welcome—the University’s vibrant new student orientation program.

Syracuse Welcome is a week-long opportunity for first-year and transfer students to attend exciting programs and social events to connect with their fellow new students, learn about campus traditions, settle into campus living and prepare for classes.

At the forefront of Syracuse Welcome are orientation leaders (OLs). These student ambassadors play a key role in welcoming incoming students. They lead small group programs, provide mentorship and guidance, and are campus role models. Below, three OLs share their motivation for serving in this important—and fun—position.

Jordan Avinoam ’25

Avinoam hopes to support and mentor new students as they acclimate to life at Syracuse University.

Why did you decide to serve as an orientation leader? What do you feel is so important about Syracuse Welcome?

Jordan Avinoam ’25: I chose to become an orientation leader because of my own experience with OLs. At first, I struggled with adjusting and was reserved in social situations. However, the orientation leaders who led my group played a big role in pushing me out of my comfort zone and helping me break out of my shell. Seeing how much of a positive impact they had on me, I wanted to pass on that support and mentorship to new students.

Syracuse Welcome establishes the foundation for a student’s social and academic journey over the next four years. This first week of immersion provides a unique opportunity for students to forge connections, engage with the vibrant campus community and familiarize themselves with the diverse array of resources available. The events and interactions during Syracuse Welcome are instrumental in setting a positive trajectory for students’ holistic growth and success during their time at Syracuse University.

Raven Campbell ’24: I decided to serve as an OL to give incoming students the experience I didn’t have when I first started at Syracuse during the pandemic.

Syracuse Welcome helps the incoming students, and it is important because it brings everyone together and builds community. I’m happy I get to share my Orange pride with new students. From Orange Blast to the Welcome Fête, there are endless opportunities for first-year students to meet and engage with each other and upperclassmen. Syracuse Welcome gives students an idea of who they are going to be for the next four years.

I wanted to show incoming students that you truly start on the path to your dreams once you step onto the Syracuse University campus.

Melanie Salas ’24

Melanie Salas ’24: I became an OL because I know how hard it can be for students to leave home for the first time and start a new path. I can relate to this because I am a first-generation college student. I wanted to show incoming students that you truly start on the path to your dreams once you step onto the Syracuse University campus.

The support that first-year students receive at Syracuse Welcome is important, as is making lasting connections with them. Representing each and every culture and creating unity is something that Syracuse Welcome and the University does well.

Raven Campbell ’24

Campbell feels that the team building and collaborative activities during Syracuse Welcome is a great way for incoming students to start building a community on campus.

What do you feel is the most important aspect of your role, or the part of the job you enjoy the most?

Jordan Avinoam: As an OL, my focus is on creating an environment where new students can build their own communities within the larger Syracuse family. It’s awesome to see students make genuine connections and discover shared interests. Watching them go from introductions to forming strong friendships is something I’m super passionate about.

Raven Campbell: I think the most important thing is fostering community. As OLs, we want nothing more than to make incoming students feel comfortable and welcome. Implementing spaces such as the First Gen and BIPOC groups into Pre-Welcome Programs as well as small affinity groups in Syracuse Welcome enable us to help all first-year students feel comfortable coming into this new space. The social events help to assimilate students into the Orange culture. The team building and collaborative activities aid students in overcoming barriers and navigating the challenges of working in a diverse environment.

One my favorite parts of the job, though, is being there for someone when they most need me. Even if it is not on a personal level but in a small group, being able to answer questions and minimize anxiety that someone may be experiencing makes me love the job even more.

Melanie Salas: My favorite part of being an orientation leader is speaking with students and their families. The most important aspect of my role is to help these students feel welcomed and create a sense of belonging on campus. Even after Syracuse Welcome is over, I am still a role model, guide and mentor. Being able to talk to students and their families at any time makes my day!

Melanie Salas '24

As a first-generation college student, Salas understands how hard it can be to leave home for the first time. She thinks the most important part of her role is creating a sense of belonging.

What do you hope students will take away from Syracuse Welcome to help them have a successful first year?

Jordan Avinoam: I really hope that by the end of Syracuse Welcome, students have made some solid friendships, know where to find campus resources and are genuinely excited to start their academic journey at Syracuse University. Armed with these basics, students can dive into their first year with confidence, determination and a real sense of belonging.

Raven Campbell: I hope students take away that however big this campus may feel, there will always be a space for you. With organizations and departments that cater to the likes of everyone, Syracuse provides everyone a space to be unapologetically themselves. I also hope that students learn that there are always resources around when you need help.

Melanie Salas: I hope students learn to take a chance at something new because you never know when that opportunity will come again. As the saying goes—you only live once. So, I hope students are not afraid to put themselves out there, because every student’s voice should be heard.

Orientation leaders walk away from camera wearing custom backpacks with "Orientation Leader" embroidered on them.

First-year and transfer students are encouraged to celebrate campus traditions, settle into campus living, prepare for classes and connect with peers through the programming and events offered at Syracuse Welcome.

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