A community of similar interests
Andy Russo ('15)
Virginia Beach, Va.
Andy Russo's ('15) first-year experience included getting to know other members of the Madison Athletic Training Student Association and volunteering to help children with disabilities.
"I chose JMU because it had my major: athletic training ... but, seriously, it's the nicest student body in the world! I felt so at home from the first time I came to campus. The atmosphere, the people here, — it's just so warm and welcoming. I felt like I fit right in right away."
Why the Huber Learning Community?
"You have professors and students around to bounce ideas off of, to talk about your intended fields of study and how you're doing in classes. Living with people that have the same interests is a real benefit. Our discussions in class carry over outside of class. It's been really cool. On top of that, there are so many volunteer opportunities on campus and around Harrisonburg."
So what about those volunteer opportunities?
I work with the JMU program Overcoming Barriers, which gives individuals with disabilities the tools to participate successfully in the community and live healthy, active lifestyles. For part of the semester, I would go to Waynesboro every Tuesday night to the YMCA and play with children with disabilities — throwing, catching, dribbling, bouncing balls. It was really high energy and fun! Now I volunteer for another program working with children with disabilities, called Just Dance. On Thursdays I'm doing the Chicken Dance, Pokey, Cha-Cha — lots of dance!
What's been the high point so far?
I'm in the health industry to help people, so being able to volunteer in these ways is a big reward. We were each assigned a mentee. On Thursdays, I had a little 7-year-old boy named Luca. My younger brother at home is 10, so it felt like hanging out with my little brother. Luca came into the program, shy and quiet. Then, I could see him adjust to people around him. He just grew as a person in the space of eight short weeks. He became more involved, more talkative and more outgoing. Being able to see that and know that I helped with that — I can't even explain it! Beyond that, I've really enjoyed MATSA (Madison Athletic Training Student Association) and getting to know everyone in the athletic training program.
Want to offer any words of wisdom to prospective students?
I came from a very small private school; my graduating class was 76. Coming here, I was a little worried I would get lost, but I've found my niche on campus with different clubs and organizations. In the Huber Learning Community, the personal attention from Dr. Babcock is really cool; she really wants her students to succeed and be happy with what they have chosen to do. JMU feels like home, and I've even been selected to be a FROG for next year! Coming to JMU was absolutely the best decision of my life; I don't regret it whatsoever.