Chelsea Ball is part of a unique group on a special mission.
One of 31 student Orientation leaders, she’s in charge of helping the more than 15,000 incoming freshmen and transfer students – along with nearly 8,000 of their family members – successfully adjust to life at UCF.
UCF on YouTube: Go ‘behind-the-scenes’ with the O-Teamers in this video.
Each year, Orientation exposes recent high school graduates and others to college life, giving them the chance to plan their class schedules and get to know the campus. But for another group of students, the opportunity to help usher in “new Knights” is a life-changing experience of its own.
“The motivation to help freshmen is definitely powerful, but it is also so much fun to get to know them and help get them acclimated to campus,” said Ball, a junior majoring in Interpersonal & Organizational Communications. “It’s such a treat to be a part of it.”
As part of what’s dubbed the “O-Team,” Ball dedicates her summer to helping incoming students and their parents learn about all that the University of Central Florida has to offer.
While parents attend presentations about UCF’s services, such as the Health Center and Career Services, enthusiastic “O-Teamers” rally the new students’ Knight pride through skits, information sessions and small group workshops that teach them about what they can expect as UCF students. These sessions cover financial aid, campus safety and ways to get involved with organizations on campus.
About 30 students commit their time to planning orientation activities and learning how to mentor new students every year. For O-Teamers, however, the Orientation experience spans far beyond the two-day sessions that they lead throughout the summer.
“Each of these students has tremendous school spirit, wants to make a difference in others’ lives and sacrifices their free time for the betterment of UCF,” said Joe Ritchie, executive director of UCF’s First Year Experience office. “Without the O-Team, new students wouldn’t feel as welcomed to campus and wouldn’t be as prepared to navigate the many academic and social aspects of their new and exciting life at UCF.”
More than 100 students go through the O-Team application process, which includes letters of recommendation, personal essays and interviews. The process goes on for nearly two months before O-Team members are selected each December.
Newly appointed O-Team members then spend the spring semester preparing for Orientation through a two-credit-hour peer leadership class. They also participate in training sessions and retreats throughout the semester, including the Southern Region Orientation Workshop, an annual conference for university orientation teams from the Southeast.
The students live together in campus residence halls all summer and lead about three Orientation sessions each week. In addition to giving tours, holding discussions and leading presentations, the O-Teamers are among the first contacts that incoming freshmen and transfer students make at UCF.
“Seeing students around campus and knowing that I helped them is always a highlight for me,” said sophomore Legal Studies major Darian Hands.
Once summer Orientation sessions end in August, the O-Teamers will spend the fall semester leading Orientation for transfer students. They also will assist the Office of First Year Experience staff with interviewing and selecting O-Teamers for next year.
In addition to serving as campus leaders, O-Teamers benefit from networking with each other, incoming students and their families, and university faculty and staff members. O-Teamer Brittany Davies, a senior in the College of Education, even received a job offer from a parent of one of the students in her group.
“The number of people whom you meet and the amount of friends you gain make the O-Team experience worth it,” Hands added.
To learn more about Orientation, find out how to join the O-Team or explore the Office of First Year Experience, visit http://fye.ucf.edu.