At Family Weekend, Parents and Siblings Get a Taste of Campus Life

October 15, 2019

Family Weekend is a long-standing tradition where St. John’s parents and families are invited to explore campus alongside their students, meet other families, and experience life at the University. 

This year, families representing 32 states traveled to the Queens, NY, campus from as far away as California, Florida, Texas, and Washington, to attend Family Weekend festivities from October 11 to 13. 

The weekend began on Friday evening with student performances inside Sodano Coffee House in the D’Angelo Center. Steps away, the Chappell Players Theater Group performed their first of four weekend performances of the musical All Shook Up, which features selections from the Elvis Presley songbook. 

“Family Weekend is a wonderful time for students to share their ‘Johnny experience’ with the entire family,” said Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs. “This weekend provides the perfect opportunity for families to participate in the activities their students engage in and to meet the friends they have heard so much about. Family support enhances student success in and outside the classroom.”

On Saturday morning, Dr. Hutchinson hosted brunch inside Montgoris Dining Hall. For the Laucella family, from Deer Park, NY, that served as a special opportunity to finally share a meal together. Even though Justin, a junior studying Homeland Security, and Aria (’18C) who is pursuing her graduate degree in The School of Education, live at home and commute to the Queens campus, their busy schedules rarely place the entire family together in the same location.

“We have four children who have either graduated from, or are current studying at St. John’s, so we love to come to Family Weekend,” said Robert Laucella, the family patriarch. “It is so difficult to get everyone’s schedules coordinated, so to be here together feels a little bit like Thanksgiving Day.” 

He and his wife, Linda, have been St. John’s parents for many years, as their two other children, Amora (’14C, ’16G) and Alessandra (’16C, ’18MPS) are University alumni. “As a parent, it is so gratifying to see how they all flourish at St. John’s,” said Mrs. Laucella. “We love it here—and they love it here.”

That afternoon, guests were invited to a pair of faculty lectures, “Paranormal New York,” which explored some of the famous and obscure haunted locations throughout the five boroughs, and “Woodstock in Perspective,” which connected the legendary festival to other historic events of 1969.

The high point of Family Weekend, for many, was the carnival on the Great Lawn. There, students and their weekend guests enjoyed New York-style food trucks, carnival games, giveaways, music, and more. 

Family Weekend marked the first time Brian Penn, of Eatontown, NJ, had seen his daughter, Sophia, since Move-In Weekend. “I have only been here on campus a few hours,” he said, “but it is amazing to see how she has changed since late August.” 

“I miss my family, but I am so happy at St. John’s,” Sophia, a first-year Biology major, noted.

“From the moment I set foot on campus, it just felt right—it felt like home.” 

More than 42 percent of St. John’s students go even farther away from home during their time at St. John’s, by participating in a study abroad program. Students had the opportunity to learn about the vast options available at the Office of International Education’s (OIE) information sessions. OIE representatives answered questions about destinations, program costs, and safety for students and family members in attendance. 

“Family Weekend provides an opportunity for families to reconnect with their student while getting a firsthand look at a day in the life at St. John’s,” said Brian Fausto ’14CPS, ’16G, Assistant Director of Student Development. “By this time in the school year, students have adapted to the University lifestyle and settled into their classes and environments, making it the perfect time for families to check in and learn more about what life is like for their child on campus.”

For Staten Island native Ashley Arnone, life on campus means starting each day at 5 a.m. sharp. As a first-year student enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, she participates in early morning training exercises five days a week. “Since my schedule is so busy, I do not always have the opportunity to stay in touch with my family,” she said. “It is nice to finally have a chance to spend time with my parents and my sister.” 

On Saturday evening, families could continue their time together inside the Residence Village, where a New York-style block party was held, complete with hot dogs, pretzels, and popcorn. Across campus at Belson Stadium, families cheered for the No. 10-ranked St. John’s Men’s Soccer team as they took on the Villanova Wildcats and won, 4 to 0.

Meanwhile, at the Staten Island, NY, campus, Family Weekend got off to an early start Friday morning in the Kelleher Center with a Family Weekend Brunch. On Saturday, many guests enjoyed a day of apple picking at nearby Eastmont Orchards. Finally, on Sunday, the Great Lawn at the Staten Island campus was transformed into a carnival setting for students and their families, complete with pony rides, a bouncy house, and other activities.  

Back in Queens, Family Weekend concluded on Sunday with Mass at St. Thomas More Church.