Downtown was hopping with energy Monday during Emporia Main Street’s annual Welcome Back Block Party.

New and returning students from Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College enjoyed food, browsed booths and played games as they caught up with friends.

ESU President Allison Garrett said the beginning of the semester was always an exciting time, and the block party was a great way to celebrate.

“It is just wonderful to see all of the students back, and as I walking down here, one of the things that was just really fun to watch was, students who maybe hadn’t seen each other over the summer giving hugs and welcoming one another back to campus,” she said. “We’re glad to have all of the new students here on campus as well.”

Garrett said the bond formed between students during their college years is special, and she is glad she gets to be a part of that.

“It’s a lot of fun to see people reconnecting,” she said.

Garrett was also celebrating the opening of Schallenkamp Hall, along with many excited students.

“It’s a great new dorm,” she said. “We’re in the process of redoing Abigail Morse right now, and hopefully by next fall we’ll be opening that one up, as well. It’s really exciting.”

Stacey Olson, a sophomore English and political science major, is one of the students who just moved into the new residence hall.

“I’m in the brand new dorms and those are really nice,” she said.

Olson said she was enjoying the block party and was planning to help out at the voter registration table during the event.

“It’s super hot, but there’s good jams and good people,” she said. “I registered to vote last year, but I’ll probably help at some point tonight.”

Mobilizing Literacy for Lyon County Liaison Jodi Case was out at the block party recruiting volunteers for the program.

“Patricia Reyes and I are here because we want to help support this event that’s so much fun, but we’re also here because we want to help the community with all of the events that we do, and we want to try to encourage our students here to volunteer for all of the different events that we provide to support early literacy,” Case said. “We’re hoping to get a sign-up sheet or two filled up with people who want to help.”

Case said ESU students are fun to work with, and can earn volunteer hours toward their degrees.

“They’ve got lots of energy, they’ve got lots of interest; they want to have fun,” she said.

Another group looking to engage students was Loud Light, a non-partisan organization that encourages civic action among young adults.

“Kansas really has the numbers in youth votes to make a lot of powerful political change, but young people just don’t show up to the polls,” Anita Austin said.

Austin said a lot of students had come up to ask questions about registering to vote so far, which was great.

“I’ve talked with some folks with the local election that’s coming up and people seem to be really receptive,” she said. “We’ve registered a lot of students already.”

Overall, Garrett said she believed this would be a great year for Emporia State.

“We’ve got a lot of exciting things we’re working on and we’re really excited to have our students back,” she said.

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