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Incoming Clayton State freshmen pack dorm

Parents ‘can hold on — but lightly’

Photo by Jim Massara
Clayton State students Gary Reddish and Jasmine Fuller guard an incoming freshman’s belongings on the curb outside Laker Hall. “Some people have truckloads,” Fuller said. “This is not that much.”

Photo by Jim Massara Clayton State students Gary Reddish and Jasmine Fuller guard an incoming freshman’s belongings on the curb outside Laker Hall. “Some people have truckloads,” Fuller said. “This is not that much.”

MORROW — With the first day of classes less than a week away, some 400 wide-eyed freshmen — accompanied by anxious parents — moved into Laker Hall at Clayton State University Tuesday to begin their college careers.

“I’m about three seconds away from crying,” said Tamiko Harris of Atlanta as she and her family walked with daughter Breanna Hunt down the long hall to her new dorm room. “This is the first time I’m going through it, and it is very hard.”

Grandmother Ella Hunt was simply proud to see Breanna be the first in her family to go to college. “I’m absolutely elated,” she said.

Willette Capers, associate director for housing at Clayton State, said parental anxiety is common.

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Photo by Jim Massara Clayton State incoming freshman Emmanuella Ibekwe of Riverdale cleans her chest of drawers at Laker Hall.

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Photo by Jim Massara Mary Kondos, left, of McDonough helps move daughter Marina into Laker Hall at Clayton State University.

“They’re afraid to let go a little bit, but we’re going to teach them it’s OK to let go,” Capers said. “You can hold on — but lightly.”

Laker Hall was dedicated in 2008 as Clayton State’s first on-campus housing. Designed to hold about 450 students, the dorm should be full by week’s end.

Capers said the Laker experience — the first taste of freedom for most of these teenagers — was designed to build “interdependence.” Dorm keys, for example, were placed directly into the hands of the incoming freshman in what Capers referred to as a “parent-free” zone.

“You can see that they’re a little nervous,” Capers said. “It’s like, hey, this is on you now, it’s not on mom and dad.”

Some students relished the opportunity. “It feels great,” said Larry Golden Jr. “I can’t wait to start.”

Xavier Lucas of McDonough was more succinct: “It feels weird.”

Emmanuella Ibekwe of Riverdale split the difference. “It’s kind of exciting, but I’m nervous,” she said while disinfecting a drawer of her dorm dresser. “I mean, I’m kind of young.”

Cameron Dunn of LaGrange, who plans to study criminal justice, had mixed feelings as well.

“Growing up as a little boy, you always want to leave the nest but when the day finally comes you feel ...” Dunn said, trailing off. He paused, then said, “I’m excited. It’s a new chapter in my life.”

As she walked her daughter Marina into the dorm, Mary Kondos of McDonough said she was still unsure of how she felt.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I have mixed feelings. I mean, she is independent, she’s always been independent, but I don’t know if I like the idea of her being away from home.”

So who’s taking it worse, mom or daughter?

“The dog!” Marina said with a smile.

Classes start at Clayton State next Monday.