For two decades, the First Year Experience (FYE) program at Meredith College has sponsored a traditional end of the year dinner and celebration titled Fire & Water, for the freshmen class. Chrissie Bumgardner, the co-director of FYE, decided to start this tradition in 1997 to allow first-year students to celebrate and reflect on a successful transition into college.
“The focus of the tradition is to give students a chance to rejoice in their achievements and new friendships,” said Bumgardner. “It’s also about overcoming any negative experiences or mistakes that happened during their freshmen year.”
The tradition features a formal dinner with guest speakers, special entertainment, and a ceremony. At the end of the night, each student writes down her best and worst memories of freshman year on small sheets of paper. The worst memory gets tossed in a fire pit and the best memory is floated in the Johnson Hall fountain.
This year, the Class of 2020 celebrated the 20th anniversary of Fire & Water. Their class advisors, Kelsey Riner, ’12, and Rebekah Gardner, ’10, served as the guest speakers. They left the students with 20 pieces of advice to guide them through the rest of their time at Meredith.
“Your adventure at Meredith won’t last forever,” said Riner. “Soak it all in while you can.” The advisors congratulated the freshmen on successfully completing their first year and encouraged them to take more risks now that they have some experience. “Step outside of your comfort zone,” said Gardner. “Sometimes what makes you uncomfortable could be a chance to grow.”
This year’s theme was titled “Our Adventure Awaits” influenced by the Disney movie Up. The co-chairs who planned the event, Anna Martina, ’20, and Kaylee Myers, ’20, were inspired by the movie and felt that it could serve as an inspiration to their classmates as well. “In the movie Up, the main character, Ellie, is filled with ideas and goals and she is so excited to take on her adventure,” said Myers. “This is how we want the Class of 2020 to feel about their time here at Meredith. We still have three years full of traditions, sisterhood, and opportunities. Our adventure awaits.”
After the ceremony, the freshmen were surprised to find their Big Sis’ class waiting for them in Johnson Hall singing “Lean On Me.”
“Walking in there to see the juniors serenade their Little Sis’ class gives me goosebumps every year,” said Bumgardner. This was also a special moment for many of the freshmen, including Avion Jenkins, ’20. “It was the best part of the night,” said Jenkins. “In that moment, I realized just how strong the Meredith sisterhood really is.”
By Cailyn Clymore, ’18