Though classes don't start at Hancock College until next week, hundreds of incoming students flooded the Santa Maria campus Tuesday afternoon for a student orientation event designed to showcase the myriad groups and services available on campus.

Featuring campus tours, roughly two dozen workshops and 60 booths from campus groups, student groups and community organizations, Hancock Hello gives new students an opportunity to get to know the campus before classes start. 

"I love seeing all the excitement and enthusiasm of all the incoming students," said Coordinator for Student Services Stephanie Robb, who helped plan the event. "They're excited to be moving onto that next chapter in their lives."

For Robb, whose department hosts more than 90 student events each year, Hancock Hello is their first opportunity college staff get to link students with various campus groups and resources. Many chose to sit through financial aid workshops or presentations from the university transfer center, while others learned about the college's 33 student clubs and academic counseling services.

"There's really something for everyone, they just need to find their niche" she said. The goal, she said, is to ensure students feel "connected, focused, nurtured or engaged."

Multiple sites throughout Lompoc Unified School District hosted back-to-school kickoff events Tuesday, giving students and parents a chance to meet with their new teachers and visit their classrooms — as well as learn about partnering organizations — ahead of Wednesday’s official first day of school.

"We know that those students are more successful if they get connected and feel in-tune with the campus," she added.

Armed with a large sign and a waist-mounted speaker, sociology student Heidi Mendiola led a small group of students on a tour of the campus. From science and math buildings to the college bookstore and student center, Mendiola, who doubles as a student ambassador and the college's student trustee, snaked around the Santa Maria campus pointing out key locations for students.

Mendiola, who attended the event before she started classes in 2017, said she was astonished by how much the event had grown. Robb has also noted an increase in both student and parental interest. Though not mandatory, more than 1,000 students and parents showed up in 2018 and 1,800 were invited this year.

"This started with probably 20 exhibitors," she said. "It's really exciting to see how much it's grown."

Many students took advantage of the Admissions and Records Office's extended hours to get their student ID. Others browsed the campus bookstore for textbooks and school supplies. Some even left the event with bags of free produce provided through a partnership between Hancock and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. 

Robb hopes students who participated in the event will be "acclimated and ready for classes" come Monday morning. Students and staff will be stationed around the campus dispensing guidance and directions for those who need it.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga



Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.