Families flocked to campus on October 21st for Family Palooza, a daylong carnival-style event hosted by the Office of Student Transition Programs. Formerly known as Family Weekend, the event allowed families to learn about the College’s myriad offerings while spending a Saturday afternoon having fun together.
“This year, families saw the program and got excited,” said Renee Toney, a Senior majoring in Law and Society who has helped organize Family Weekends over the past three years as a Peer Ambassador. “In the past, it was conference-style, but parents didn’t want to be lectured. This time, we made it inclusive for kids by having balloons, basketball, and games.”
Jazmin Letamendi, Associate Director of the Office of Student Transition Programs, agrees that in addition to being more inclusive, the programming was made more accessible this year by hosting it on-site at the campus gym. “As a result, attendance skyrocketed from 140 to 300 people.”
For the first time ever, the planning for the event involved a committee of students from John Jay’s Peer Ambassador Program under Letamendi’s guidance. Family Palooza, which featured 21 student clubs, a photo booth, a workshop led by Professor Jennifer Rosati on Forensic Science, a talent show, a volunteer project with the Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning, and an off-campus New York Islanders game, required a great deal of effort that paid off in the end.
“It’s the students who know what the community wants, because they’re the voice of the College,” Letamendi said. “We were really satisfied with all the work we put into planning the event.”
Mercedes Talley, who tabled at Family Palooza as the Treasurer of the All-Inclusive Club at John Jay, said that the new format allowed her to teach students and their families about her club’s mission through the use of fun games like trivia. “Family Palooza gave our club an opportunity for promotion,” she said. “It let students know that there is a club that tries to advocate for students with disabilities seen and unseen.”
Toney agrees that the event exposed families to the various opportunities the College offers: “Because of the student tabling, families saw what clubs on campus actually do. Later, when we had the talent show with students singing and dancing, families were excited to see what John Jay had to showcase.”
Letamendi says that involving families in students’ lives is a priority for the College, and especially for the Office of Student Transition Programs, which also plans Parent and Family Orientation. “John Jay sets the bar high for family programs because we know that families are instrumental to students’ lives,” she said. “A lot of our families love John Jay, and we see many sending their third or fourth student here. They have a proud devotion to the College.”
At the Office of Student Transition Programs, family is so important that its dynamics are often replicated in its programs. As part of the Peer Ambassadorship Program, students help organize and volunteer at campus events, but they also build strong bonds with one another and the larger John Jay community.
“As Peer Ambassadors, we tell each other about internship opportunities and elevate each other,” said Toney. “It’s like a big family.”