western connecticut state university Frosh move in
DANBURY — The new freshman class at Western Connecticut State University began their college careers with the ceremonial walk through the Midtown campus’ black iron gates on Friday afternoon.
But the annual college tradition held a special place in the hearts of one Southbury family filled with WCSU alumni.
To begin the march, 1982 graduate William Gernert handed the class of 2022’s official flag to incoming freshman Keith Gernert — his son and the family’s third generation at the college.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “I just loved it when I was here and I’m so glad he’s going to get this experience. Three generations and five total alumni. We’re definitely big fans of WestConn.
“This is not the same school it was in 1982 at all,” he said. “It’s just tremendous. It’s so strong in so many different areas.”
Keith Gernert led hundreds of his new classmates through the gates to mark move-in day on the school’s two Danbury campuses.
The class of 919 freshmen is a 10.5 percent increase over last year’s class — the first time the enrollment has increased since 2010, university spokesman Paul Steinmetz said. The new crop of students brings the school’s total enrollment, including part-time and graduate students, to just under 5,500 students.
WCSU President John Clark implored the new class to enjoy their time on campus but not miss class, which earned a loud round of applause from parents.
“I dare say for myself and most of us in this audience today, we were not born with the proverbial silver spoon, but a good wooden one,” he said. “We were brought up to believe that to achieve the great American dream, we have to possess the work ethic, the skill and the knowledge to do so. That’s our mission here at WestConn.”
Keith Gernert is excited to finally move in to campus on his own without having to go too far from home and without the heftier price tags of a major university. He visited other campuses but as soon as he stepped on the Midtown campus, he knew his college search was over.
He plans to study psychology and wants to get practical experience as a peer counselor, which he was able to do with the guidance counselors in his high school.
“Everyone’s like, ‘You need the college experience,’” he said. “But I can get all of that right here with my classmates and studies and all the programs they have here ... I just gravitated toward it.”
New Milford High School grads Victoria Pascento and Alexis Turian moved into Litchfield Hall and will study nursing, while several friends of theirs live in Danbury and will commute to campus.
Four childhood friends from Westchester — Clinton McKeel, Daniel DiSanzo, Ryan Melendez and Andrew LaSala — made the move across the state line to study business and are all looking forward to living on their own for the first time. They’re participating in the WCSU program that lets students in New York and New Jersey receive in-state tuition.
The “squad” didn’t get to room with each other, but that just means they might be able to add to it, they laughed.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” DiSanzo said. “It’s far enough away that our parents can’t just surprise us, we don’t think, but we’re close enough that we can get back home for some good food.”