San Marcos shops, restaurants and community members gathered in The Square on August 21st to welcome students back to campus during the third annual Passport to San Marcos event.
The party, which was hosted by the main street program, City of San Marcos and Texas State’s Division of Student Affairs, offered students a taste of the town by introducing them to community organizations and serving samples from local restaurants.
Samantha Armbruster, Main Street program manager, said the event is a way for locals to engage with students and link Texas State and the city together. “
We started this because we were getting feedback that there were a lot of students who would go to their junior or senior year without even knowing about downtown,” Armbruster said. “And we wanted to find ways for them to feel more connected to the community.”
Kelsey Sturn, biochemistry freshman, said she heard about the event through the Bobcat Guidebook given to students during orientation. Strun said she was immediately greeted with food and accessories from local clothing stores as soon as she arrived.
“This was the first time I was actually able to walk around The Square since I moved in, so it was really cool to see the different stores and what not,” Sturn said. “Everyone is so friendly.”
Amy Kirwin, Keep San Marcos Beautiful coordinator, said her organization has held a booth at the event for the past three years. Kirwin said she hopes to teach students how to handle trash and keep the city beautiful.
“My job is about recycling and reducing the amount of waste,” Kirwin said. “What we are doing here is talking about volunteer opportunities we have for river cleanups and helping with the youth events.”
Todd Salmi, Serve San Marcos director, said giving back to the community is important for every student. He said his group connects students to volunteer projects based on their interests and schedules.
“I hope what (students) will do is take volunteer opportunities we offer to get them to different parts of the community they wouldn’t naturally get into,” Salmi said. “There is so much going on in this town.”
Armbruster said the event also included music, games and interactive activities that encouraged students to explore the town. One of the event’s biggest activities was a three-day long Quick Response (QR) scavenger hunt around The Square, Armbruster said.
“The more places (students) visit and scan, the bigger prices they were entered to win,” Armbruster said. “We had $2000 worth of prizes and lots of other exciting things.”
Dillon Rodriguez, finance junior, said he chose to volunteer at the event as a way to give back to new students.
“I love to see that our freshman class grows every year,” Rodriguez said. “(San Marcos) is kind of a hidden jewel we have right now because we’re in the middle of San Antonio and Austin.”
Armbruster said her goal is to make sure no student goes years before getting to know what San Marcos has to offer.
“We want them to feel like this is their new home and to recognize how special this place is and it’s not just a place to get their degree,” Armbruster said. “One of the best things about going to college is getting to experience new places, new people, new cultures and new landscapes.”
Follow Louis Zylka on Twitter at @OrinZylka.