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New students get schooled in spirit at Sun Devil Welcome

Thousands of members of the Class of 2023 get loud at the fall 2019 kickoff event

sun devil welcome
August 20, 2019

Thousands of freshmen from Arizona State University’s Class of 2023 gathered on Tuesday to learn about serving their new community — and how to sing the fight song.

Clad in gold T-shirts for the traditional Sun Devil Welcome event, the freshmen poured in from the Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses to Wells Fargo Arena on the Tempe campus, where Sparky made a dramatic entrance dropping from the ceiling.

The pep rally combined dancers, the Sun Devil Marching Band and lots of spirit with lessons about ASU traditions, like wearing gold on Fridays, and a plea to get involved.

Yasmin Alvarado, student body president of the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, told more than 13,000 first-year students that they should say “yes” to every opportunity — even if it’s scary.

“As a first-generation college student, I was scared of not knowing my future. As a Mexican American student, no one really looked like me and I was scared of not making any friends,” she said.

“I was scared because as a commuter student, I thought I was going to lose out on the college experience. But I knew that the only way I was going to overcome those fears was by stepping out of my comfort zone — so I did.”

As each college was called out, the new Sun Devils screamed and waved props including glow sticks, banners, light-up devil ears and giant foam hands. 

They also heard messages about giving back.

Aiden McGirr, a senior majoring in astrophysics, is a founder of REACT, the Refugee Education and Clinic Team that partners ASU with Mayo Clinic and has served more than 450 refugees. He described how ASU has supported his goals.

“I’ve had the opportunity to lead an international research team for a company in India. I worked in Japan,” he said. “I studied abroad in Scandinavia and I just got back from my thesis research project looking at aiding refugees.

“I was in your seat four years ago and ASU has allowed me to grow my idea to its maximum,” he said.

“You’ve heard the word ‘innovation’ a few times but it’s truly at the heart of what it means to be a Sun Devil. It means we can take a critical look at the world around us and create novel solutions.”

Genevieve McKenzie, a senior majoring in criminology and psychology, described how she created a community service project in which people who are incarcerated created art that was sold for charity. She helped raised more than $5,000 for a nonprofit group that provides art therapy for traumatized children.

“When I think back to why I got involved in service, it came from the realization that not everybody gets the opportunity to come to college and use these resources,” she told the freshmen.

“We have a responsibility as Sun Devils to enhance our communities. If we want to live and work in healthy, vibrant communities, we need to support those communities through service.”

Video by Dana Lewandowski/ASU

ASU President Michael Crow told the first-year students that 30,000 employees at the university stood ready to support them.

“We have one goal — for you to have the most successful year of your life,” he said.

“It’s the time in your life when you’re taking that step away from home, to find your way, to find the subjects you’re interested in, to find the people you want to hang out with.”

He told students to not hesitate to ask for help and to never think of quitting, even if their circumstances change.

“You are going to experience every possible emotion you can imagine, highs and lows,” he said.

“That’s the realm of human experience.”

Top photo: The annual Sun Devil Welcome celebration for freshmen comes to a close on Aug. 20, 2019, at Wells Fargo Arena. More than 13,000 first-year students from the 15 schools and colleges experienced high-energy Sun Devil spirit, pride and tradition during the official welcome for the incoming Class of 2023. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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