Seventh LION Walk connects with students, residents as semester begins

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — More than 150 Penn State students, administrators, police officers, State College officials and community members came together Monday evening to welcome students and residents living downtown back for the semester during the seventh annual LION Walk.

The event, which stands for “Living in One Neighborhood,” offered students the chance to meet their neighbors and interact with local officials. Walk volunteers handed out packets of health and safety and local ordinance and code information.

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Junior Michel Caraco, the vice president of programing for the Off-Campus Student Union, greets Penn State junior Jacob Ullom at his home Monday evening as part of the 2014 LION Walk.

Image: Heather Hottle Robbins

Groups of four consisting of a student, a Penn State administrator, a borough official and a law enforcement officer were each given a map of the borough and an assigned street. For two hours, the groups walked door-to-door welcoming more than 2,000 students and residents, while offering assistance when needed and answering questions.

“It feels so good to live in State College again,” said Penn State President Eric Barron, who helped kick off the event. “We’re all in this together — this is our community. If we work well together, we can be quite successful.”

Barron said there are many aspects of the Penn State and State College communities that make him proud, but he’s particularly impressed with student and faculty initiatives and involvement in the town-gown relationship.

“My bet is over the next few years, you’re going to see even more faculty and students out there volunteering,” he said.

Junior Michel Caraco, the vice president of programing for the Off-Campus Student Union, is one of those volunteers. Caraco, from Mexico City, helped Barron kick off the walk before taking to the streets.

“In Mexico, we have this word that does not exist in the English language. The word is ‘convivencia.’ The closest translation to convivencia is to say living in peace, coexisting or cohabitating,” Caraco said. “I truly think that this concept of convivencia is the spirit of my organization, the Off-Campus Student Union, as well as the events taking place today for the LION Walk.”

Caraco chose Penn State because it has good business and engineering programs — two majors he had interest in pursuing — and a lot of school spirit. When he first arrived, Caraco said he felt a little out of place being 3,000 miles away from his family and friends, but that changed when he went to the involvement fair and met members of the Off-Campus Student Union.

The 2014 Involvement Fair is taking place this week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center and continues through Thursday, Aug. 28.

Caraco has been involved in the organization since his freshman year. He said that it’s a misnomer that someone has to live off campus to be part of the organization, and that the mission is to create a great town-gown relationship and a sense of community for students.

“I stopped feeling like a foreigner and started feeling like a true Penn Stater,” he said. “State College started to feel like home.”

Last Updated August 26, 2014