By ASHLEY COLUMBIA, Guest Writer
No trick here. With fall at its peak, Manhattan College students give back by kicking off the festivities a day early for families in the community.
On a chilly Friday afternoon, as the witching hour of 4 p.m. approaches, classrooms in the Miguel and De La Salle buildings are transformed into haunted houses and arts and crafts stations for children of all ages.
Superheroes, princesses, and hundreds of other characters flood the campus with laughter, leaving traces of candy wrappers behind them. The sweet smell of Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kats and other goodies fills the air.
One family of four, dressed in matching grey shark hoodies, are all smiles as the parents take a step back to watch their young children at play with the other kids. However, across the room, mother of two Dana Graham can be seen keeping a watchful eye on her two young sons. Earlier that day, her adventurous two-and-a-half year old wandered off in all the excitement.
“The students were extremely helpful and helped me find him,” Graham said. “I wish I knew the name of the young girl who brought him back to me.”
In the last few years, Riverdale residents have issued complaints of the off-campus behavior of Manhattan College students. However, this year’s Safe Halloween showed a different side of the community-college dynamic.
“I have been coming here for years and, honestly, I have never been anywhere like this,” Graham said. “My kids love it here.”
The event hosted by Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the national education honor society at Manhattan, has something for everyone. According to Sierra Scott, a junior and member of the executive council for KDP, a lot of planning went into making this year’s Safe Halloween the best one yet.
“We passed out flyers in the surrounding schools, wrote up plans to decorate the quad, found stores to donate candy, reserved all the classrooms, and coordinated with all the other clubs on campus,” Scott said. “We are a part of this society too, and it is important that we, as students, interact with the community so that people don’t just know us as ‘the college.’”
Kids can be seen clinging to their mothers’ arm at first, but the warm and inviting nature exuding from every inch of campus is enough to entice the children away for a few minutes.
New and returning visitors alike agree that you cannot repeat this unique sense of family anywhere else. For mother of three Alexandra Villamizar, this year’s Safe Halloween was a first for her and her family.
“The kids go to tutoring here, and we have been hearing nothing but good things about the event from our friends at Ampark Neighborhood School,” she said. “As a parent there is nothing better than seeing your children happy, and my kids are very happy.”
Safe Halloween allows for families to trick-or-treat in a safe, contained environment while both adults and children become acquainted with one another.
There is no other college or university in the area that does something like this every year. According to Jocelyn Mercado, a sophomore and member of Alpha Upsilon Pi, she wishes that she had something like this growing up.
“The great thing about this is that it has everything that Halloween has to offer, but without the danger of being out on the street,” Mercado said. “I don’t live in a great place so it is nice to see a lot of the students giving back, and just being genuinely nice people.”
“It is important to be a visible example of the college’s mission statement at work,” Scott said.
Earlier this month, the event earned Manhattan’s chapter the top Award for Service at the honor society’s Biennial Convocation.
“For my kids, Safe Halloween is their Halloween,” Graham said. “It is amazing to see students bringing the whole community together, even if it is just for one night.”