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After arriving at Hancock College on Monday, Miguel Santos stopped at an information booth for a map of the Santa Maria campus so he would be prepared for his first day as a college student. 

“I want to know where everything is at so when I come here tomorrow, I know where all my classes are,” the 2019 Pioneer Valley High School graduate said.

Santos was among thousands of students visiting the college campus Monday, the first day of the college's 2019-20 school year. Classes were held at the Santa Maria campus, as well as the Lompoc Valley and Santa Ynez Valley centers. 

A trio of student workers  -- Melissa Enriquesz, Kenia Perez and Sarah Galindo -- arrived at 7:30 a.m. Monday to set up the information booth, located in front of the Rabobank Student Center. 

“We’re here for students who are needing direction,” Enriquez said. “We’re giving out snacks, coffee and directions for students. We’re also giving out discounts on books.”

The three also kept a tally of how many students took advantage of the booth. Between 7:30 a.m and 10 a.m., there were 73 students who stopped for assistance. 

Enriquez, who is in her second year of employment with Hancock, believes having the information booth is a necessity for the start of the new year.

“Usually the students, especially the incoming ones, are timid and they don’t want to ask questions, so we go out there and ask, ‘Hey, are you alright?’ And they don’t know where their classes are at, and it’s actually right down the way,” Enriquez said.

Galindo helped students who speak English as a second language by sharing information about the college in Spanish. Enriquez said the booth will remain open Tuesday.

“I think this is very helpful and it keeps them (the students) inspired,” she said.

Across the way and inside the Student Services building, lines formed at the cashier’s booth and the Financial Aid area. Along the windows, students registered for last-minute classes at the designated computers or filled out their FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) forms.

One of those students was freshman Josh Powell, who not only is getting his first taste of the college experience but comes to Hancock College via Schenectady High School in New York. Powell is carrying 18 units this semester while also spending time with the PCPA center on campus. 

“I’m going to be acting, making people laugh and singing some songs,” said Powell, who has been involved with theater arts since the eighth grade. 

Like Santos, Powell spent his Monday learning where all his classes are located. He said he's already drawn to the atmosphere and friendliness on Hancock's campus.

“Everyone talks a lot slower down here,” Powell said. “Everyone is so much more laid-back. I’m sure everybody has their things that stress them out, but it’s nothing compared to New York. Over there, everything is going quickly. And everyone at the PCPA has been very nice. I haven’t come across anyone with a bad attitude.”

Powell hopes to test the waters in Los Angeles after Hancock or head back to the East Coast upon transfer to a university there. 

As for Santos, he’s carrying 12 units in his first semester at Hancock College. While Santos still is familiarizing himself with the campus, he already knows what major he wants to pursue. 

“Architecture,” Santos said. “My dad is a painter and owns a painting company, so I just thought I could help him with making plans and figuring out how to read plans and do estimates. I just want the best courses to take.”

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