Going the extra mile for commuter students

A little extra effort goes into making memories to go along with all the miles that are logged by students who live off campus.

Commuter Student Appreciation Week runs November 15-20. Student Engagement and Leadership led the celebration by filling each day with activities designed to promote a sense of community and bonding between classmates.

Harbor the therapy dog was eager to make new friends during Commuter Student Appreciation Week.
A therapy dog named Harbor was eager to make friends.

Several commuter students gathered on Thursday, November 18, at The Axe Pit in South Portland for target practice. In addition to axes, they also tried their hands at throwing knives, ninja stars, and even a batarang straight out of a superhero movie.

“Empowering, but also a little nerve-racking,” said first-year Nursing student Rachel Packard about her attempts to hit the bullseye. “It’s very fun. I’m very bad at it. But we’re learning, we’re getting better. I haven’t hit a target yet, but by the end of the day, I will hit one!”

As part of Commuter Student Appreciation Week, hatchets are the weapon of choice for target practice at The Axe Pit.
Among the many weapons available to throw at The Axe Pit were knives, ninja stars, batarangs, and, of course, axes.

Students looking for a more relaxed activity were invited to cuddle with a therapy dog at the Abromson Community Center in Portland on Wednesday, November 17.

“Any kind of animal helps you relieve stress in a way that you just focus on the love and the care that the animal is providing you,” said Ketsia Bosenge, a second-year Political Science student. “Your worries are kind of fading away for that specific moment and it’s just creating a wonderful bond even though it’s not a lasting bond. But it’s still something that is an amazing thing.”

That reaction is something Mary Jo McCormack sees all the time in her work for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She and her dogs have brought their services to the Gorham Campus several times previously, but this was their first visit with students in Portland.

“Everybody wants a little love, and the dogs just give unconditional love and hugs and want to sit with them and just love people,” said McCormack.

A therapy dog greets students as part of Commuter Student Appreciation Week.
Harbor played favorites with people who would give her treats.

The dog that was giving those hugs was a three-year-old golden retriever named Harbor. She would come when called, but she would come a lot faster when that call was accompanied by a treat.

Harbor’s breed raised no objections from students despite the husky being their school mascot. “We’re not biased here,” said second-year Criminology student Emily Shaffer. “We’ll take any dog.”

Free pets with a therapy dog were a highlight of Commuter Student Appreciation Week.
Harbor’s visit, like of the activities during Commuter Student Appreciation Week, was arranged by Student Engagement and Leadership.

Other activities held over the course of Commuter Student Appreciation Week included lawn games, bowling, karaoke and more. That kind of outreach is especially important at USM where about 80 percent of the 5,956 undergraduate students live off campus.

“We’re just trying to engage with students and really do whatever we can to make the commuter students feel appreciated and heard at the university,” said Nolan Cyr, a graduate assistant with Student Engagement and Leadership.

Target practice at The Axe Pit for Commuter Student Appreciation Week.
The Axe Pit is located on Clarks Pond Parkway in South Portland.

Another round of axe throwing is set for the evening of Friday, November 19. And the week’s festivities will wrap up on Saturday, November 20 with indoor rock climbing at the EVO Center in Portland.