A Penn State student sits in his living room, relaxing after his first day of class.
But then he hears a knock and answers the door. Looks of confusion turns to surprise when he finds the Nittany Lion mascot, the president of his university, the mayor of his town and chief of the university police on his front porch to greet him with smiles.
This scene played out several times Monday during the 7th annual Living In One Neighborhood, or LION, Walk. The event brings representatives from both Penn State and the borough to the doors of almost 2,000 student and non-student residents.
The walk volunteers — senior officials of Penn State, State College and student organizations totaling more than 150 individuals — met at the borough municipal building prior to the walk to organize and share a meal before splitting into groups and heading into the streets of State College.
State College Police Chief Thomas King, who has participated in every walk, said it’s a great opportunity to welcome everyone to the neighborhood.
“What we’re trying to stress is whether you’re new, returning or been here for a long, long time,” he said, “it’s good for everybody to get to know each other and try to live in that neighborhood together.”
Walking door to door, they met with residents and handed out packets to each home. The packets included the LION guide, contact numbers to service organizations and small giveaways such as gift cards.
The residents were also encouraged to socialize with their neighbors and get to know the people of their community.
Borough Council President Jim Rosenberger has been participating in the walk for six years. He said the walk is a good chance to build teamwork.
“When you break down these barriers between the groups — town and gown, police and students — it’s helpful when they see each other as allies,” he said.
Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said the first-time volunteers were in for a surprise and a treat.
“The surprise is the genuine interaction you can have with the students and the residents of our community,” she said. “The treat is the opportunity to get to know the other members of your team across all disciplines.”
Taking his first LION Walk was Penn State President Eric Barron. Barron, along with wife Molly, said how good it felt to be living in State College again.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “If we work well together, we can be incredibly successful.”
The walk was organized by Centrice Mulfinger, the borough’s community engagement assistant, in conjunction with the newly developed Community Engagement Office.
The office was created through a partnership between the borough and the Penn State Office of Student Affairs, she said. Jointly funded by the borough and Student Affairs, the office will continue to carry out events that promote communication between residents and students.
Barron, his wife, Goreham and the Nittany Lion were joined by Penn State senior Vice President of Finance and Business David Gray, Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham and Penn State student representatives as they strolled through the Highlands greeting students both at their homes and on the streets.
Many students were surprised, having never met the head of their university before. But they all responded warmly to the team of volunteers, and were more than happy to receive a bag of gifts.
“I am just flattered and enthralled,” said Brianna Flock, 21, surrounded by her roommates. “I didn’t expect this at all. I feel personally honored and welcomed.”