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Iowa State Daily

WelcomeFest connects students to the Ames community and prepares them for next year

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Katarina Kotek
Students at Welcome Fest on Jan. 31 at the MU

Long lines of excited students fill Durham Hall, anticipating new opportunities and fun merch from businesses around Ames. It’s the bi-annual WelcomeFest that has everyone so chatty. 

“I like that students can come to the event and find opportunities or connections to Iowa State and the greater Ames community,” said Kevin Merrill, the assistant student planner at the Memorial Union. 

Many businesses jumped at the chance to be included in this semester’s WelcomeFest as they help students get more familiar with the community and offer networking opportunities. 

Vendors ranged from apartment complexes to job opportunities for all students at Iowa State. Even fast food restaurant Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers was in attendance, handing out free ice cream to all attendees. 

Tara Brown, executive director from Martha’s House of Hope, said that they have been in attendance at WelcomeFest for many years and the event is a good chance to inform students of what Martha’s offers. 

“My favorite part is when you see someone achieve their goal, and you know that you were able to help them,” said Tara Brown. “It’s very rewarding.”

Martha’s is a nonprofit maternity home in Ames for women who are pregnant and experiencing homelessness. They help women find work and go back to school if that is their goal, among other things like connecting them to mental health resources. 

Other organizations, such as The Wesley Center, have also been attending WelcomeFest for many years. Lewis Cox, the campus minister, was present at the event and spoke to students about his ministry at Collegiate United Methodist Church. 

“We have service, bible study, worship experience and worship gatherings,” said Cox.

Wesley’s holds many core values, one of which is inclusivity, having had buttons with short inclusive phrases, pronouns and LGBTQ flags to give away at their table. 

The Workspace, an art spot in Memorial Union, takes pride in its abundance of crafty activities. They work with things such as clay, glass, wood, jewelry and more. The Workspace offers classes, crafts and open studios for students to enjoy. It is a very popular place, especially for pottery. 

“It’s still a chill place to come and hang out and relax from classes,” says Natalie McDaniels, a worker at the shop. “It’s a hidden gem.”

Amongst the many organizations, there were plenty of apartment complexes recruiting students as residents and informing students of their many amenities. Other businesses, like the ISU Bookstore, were there handing out small free merch items and coupons for attendees. 

“It was a really fun way to find out about different things around Ames, and I was able to look into different living options for next year, which was nice,” said Al ‘Jamar Lewis, a freshman studying business economics who attended the Fest. 

“[WelcomeFest is] a good opportunity for students to get free things but also to help them feel good about Iowa State and find a place for themselves,” said Merrill.

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