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June 26, 2009

Students infused with Warhawk spirit as PREP sessions wrap

Awash in a sea of maroon and gold, Ben Young, 19, a sophomore from Rayville, leads an enthusiastic group of incoming freshmen with a rousing chant of “U – L – M.”

Arms outstretched, Young’s group spells out the acronym again, putting particular emphasis on the last letter as they perform a sort of shimmy shake with their hips and hum the “mmmm” for extra effect.

“We call it the Ring of Fire,” said Young. “It’s just something that’s really contagious. We try to use it in a traditional way.”

The spirited group encircling the Scott Plaza fountain at the University of Louisiana at Monroe were visiting the campus as part of the two-day institution known as PREP –Preview Registration Enrollment Program – a requirement of all students the summer prior to their freshman year.

Raising signs with hand-scrawled messages of support for the Warhawks, the students seemed already comfortable with the idea that ULM will soon be their second home.

Started in the summer of 1976 by ULM Registrar Barry Delcambre, new students are introduced to the academic, social, and cultural aspects of the university during PREP, while also cultivating a sense of dedication and pride in the school.

Last summer’s PREP session certainly worked its magic with Young. Back then, he was a recent high school graduate who admittedly knew very little of university life, even though he lived less than thirty minutes east of ULM.

“People outside the campus, even within Monroe, just don’t realize what ULM is all about or what it offers,” said Young. “PREP gave me an entirely different view of the university. It definitely gave me pride in the school.”

The PREP staff, composed of leaders in academics and student life, is one of the most sought after and elite positions on campus. The schedule can prove intensive, especially when tromping across campus in the mid-day heat, but is well worth it, said Young.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said. “You’re the face of ULM. I love being in a leadership role and promoting the university. I love to motivate the students.”

Lonnie Lockett Jr., 18, of Baton Rouge, and Kristen Daubert, 18, of Lacombe, are pre-pharmacy students who were assigned to Young’s group during PREP’s third session. Both got an unexpected dose of Warhawk spirit by the time last Thursday morning’s spirit rally at Scott Plaza rolled around.

“There’s been a good balance of work and fun activities,” said Lockett, a running back for the Warhawk football team who came from South Louisiana to “try something new.”

“It’s been a lot of fun,” agreed Daubert. “My parents were kind of hoping I’d find something closer, but they supported my coming here.”

The majority of PREP attendees are equally enthusiastic when evaluating the sessions, according to Amy Robinson, coordinator of events and marketing at ULM.

“Not only is our goal to help them learn about the campus and enroll in classes, but we hope to instill Warhawk pride in our new students with things like the Warhawk Spirit session and the Spirit Competition,” she said.

During PREP’s spirit sessions, students learn how to sing the ULM fight song as well as other ULM cheers that go along with band music. The front-runner is always the “Boola, Boola” chant, according to Robinson, prompting PREP officials to print the phrase on the T-shirts that are distributed to attendees.

“They love it!” said Robinson. “Since adding these sessions, we have noticed a difference in the comments on our evaluations, and the general feeling of excitement among the students. The majority of them truly are proud to be a Warhawk once they leave PREP.”

The last PREP session for June is this week, and photos of previous sessions may be viewed via PREP’s Facebook Fan Page. Log on to Facebook and search for “ULM PREP.”

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