Behind the Lens: Finalists’ Weekend 2015

Posted by Grace McClure

This past February, I experienced my second Finalists’ Weekend; no longer an anxious finalist hoping to be a Scholar, this time, I was a freshman Scholar helping to make sure the weekend was a success.

I was one of a few students tasked with recording everything that happened at Finalists’ Weekend with my shiny new Canon Rebel ti5 (which I had purchased that year for a photography class – thank you textbook stipend!) I took pictures of the Freshman Mingling, the group activities, and even the portraits of Finalists as they came out of group interviews. Just one year previously, I had been in their shoes myself: excited, a little bit nervous, and hovering in the limbo between full-on interview mode and exhaustion.

This year, the weekend was a completely different experience. I had the advantage of having spent a year with the other Scholars and staff, and I knew that this weekend was about getting to know the Finalists as real people. I loved interacting with the potential Scholars; I met so many incredible students, who I know will all do amazing, world-changing things whether they became Scholars or not. But my favorite part of Finalists’ Weekend was what went on behind the scenes.

Scholars wait behind the scenes during an info session.

As freshman Scholars, we were tasked with making Finalists’ Weekend work. Led by our intrepid Co-Captains, junior Scholars Jacob and Charlie, we worked together to organize the Finalists and their parents into groups, get everyone to their interviews, lead campus tours, answer questions, and anything else we could do to make the weekend work. Many of us stayed in the hotel lobby late into the night, tying up loose ends, prepping for the next day, or waiting for Finalists whose flights had been delayed by a snowstorm. We gave each other rides to and from campus, made sure everyone was getting food and sleep, and made each other laugh in the in-between moments. While students were in interviews or information sessions, Scholars ran back and forth with messages, instructions, supplies, and encouragement. As minor crises came up (and they did, often and with enthusiasm) we were able to meet them with level heads and strength in numbers.

While my camera was focused on the Finalists, my thoughts were on my fellow Scholars. These were my classmates, my friends, my brothers-in-arms. These were the people with whom I shared my life. There was no one I’d rather work with on a project like this – I knew that they could be counted on. Finalists’ Weekend 2015 will go down in history as the Finalists’ Weekend with possibly the worst weather of all time; but I was proud of the way the group of volunteers conquered every challenge it faced with exceptional competence and aplomb, and I am honored to be able to number myself among them.

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