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Freshmen to tour South Bend

Kaitlynn Riely | Saturday, August 19, 2006

Students often spend Freshman Orientation weekend unpacking and meeting their classmates – but this year, the Senate Community Relations committee and the city of South Bend are teaming up to expose new students to opportunities available beyond the shadow of the Dome.

The student government, Mayor Steven Luecke’s office and several local businesses are sponsoring the first-ever “Explore South Bend Tour.”

Mikki Dobski, director of communications and special projects for the mayor’s office, said the city believes it is important to make students feel welcome in South Bend and give them information early on about cultural and entertainment attractions.

“We’ve interfaced with Notre Dame on so many different levels,” Dobski said. “Now what our project is is to really focus on the students themselves.”

Monday at noon, students will board Transpo buses for the approximately hour and a half tour of the city. Local volunteers will talk about their experience living in the city and highlight what makes South Bend unique.

Stops on the tour include the East Race Waterway, the Century Center and the College Football Hall of Fame.

At the end of the tour, students will mingle with Luecke, representatives from the city council and Notre Dame student body president Lizzi Shappell. Lunch will be provided for all participants by popular local pizzerias.

The idea to introduce Notre Dame students to South Bend as a component of the Frosh-O weekend grew out of the Community Relations Committee (CRC) created by former student body president Dave Baron. Senior Josh Pasquesi, chairman of the committee, has been involved in organizing the tour. His goal is to give students a positive first impression of South Bend.

“If people have the idea that there are trashy townies out there, it’s not going to be a good relationship to start with,” Pasquesi said.

Pasquesi, who worked in the mayor’s office this summer as a communications and special projects intern, said the tour should enlighten students who are not aware of all that South Bend has to offer.

“There’s actually a lot to do in South Bend that most people don’t realize,” said Pasquesi, pointing out that South Bend is the home of the Silverhawks, the Olympic trials for kayaking and theater.

To encourage freshmen to sign up for the tour at DomerFest on Saturday, Transpo will give one participant a free iPod and several restaurants will give out gift certificates.

Pasquesi aims for approximately 200 participants for the first of what he hopes will be an annual event.

Pasquesi and the mayor’s office are optimistic the tour will result in improved town-gown relations, especially in light of the controversial amendment to the disorderly house ordinance passed last summer by the South Bend Common Council, which allows the city to send residents a notice to abate after just one noise violation.

The CRC plans to work to increase the mutual involvement of Notre Dame in South Bend and Notre Dame, Pasquesi said.

Upcoming plans include a discussion between community and University leaders and information fair for off-campus students.

Dobski said there are advantages to living in South Bend and she hopes the tour will make incoming students aware of the opportunities the city offers.

“Obviously students have discovered the bars and we want to be able to, especially with the freshmen, to show all of these other aspects,” Dobski said.

She hopes freshmen will use the information they get on the tour and take advantage of South Bend’s attractions.

“We just see this as a real positive step towards continuing the great relationship [between Notre Dame and South Bend],” Dobski said.