On April 29, 30 students of the Utica Campus Student Support Services (SSS) visited Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for the 2015-2016 Cultural Enrichment trip. This location was chosen to allow students to enjoy the beauties of nature and cabin life while having the opportunity to bond with each other while making lasting memories.
One of the goals of SSS is to provide the students with cultural enrichment trips and other activities to expose participants to the fine arts and broaden the students' experiences. This trip was an opportunity to not only expose students to new things but also an opportunity to get to know SSS participants and staff better.
About 8 a.m. Friday morning, we arrived in Pigeon Forge. After riding all night, we were all hungry and so excited to unload the bus from our long ride from Utica. After discovering that we were traveling to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area some of the students were excited to learn that we would be dining at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen for breakfast. Everything was tasty and the service was great!
As some students were waiting on the rest of us to finish breakfast, they decided to explore the Island of Pigeon Forge, a premier family, fun and entertainment destination in the Smoky Mountains. This particular site included a number of popular restaurants and eateries, rides and games, dancing fountains, live music, attractions and much more. The weather was great and the sites were beautiful.
Our first day in Pigeon Forge was non-stop fun and entertainment. After breakfast, we were scheduled to be at Wonderworks at 11:30 a.m. for a few team-building activities. Wonderworks offered us so much more than we expected. We were there for hours. Team-building activities included laser tag and a sky-trail rope course. The students enjoyed it. It was challenging, competitive and so much fun!
Though we were all exhausted and tired from Wonderworks, the students were eager to get some retail therapy. We spent two hours allowing the students to shop at the Tanger Outlet Mall. At this point, night had fallen and it was definitely time for dinner. After dinner everyone was eager to finally head to the cabin. Finding the cabin was an excursion in itself. The GPS navigation system took us to the area but wasn’t really beneficial in taking us to the door step. When we finally arrived, we were aware the bus couldn’t drive us to the door but … we weren’t expecting the hike we had in store for us to get there. It was truly a daily workout going and coming.
The cabin was beautiful and the view was astounding. The students were so excited when they walked through the doors! Everything was perfect! After the day we had, I’d imagine all would want to rest but the students enjoyed mingling and getting to know each other, from playing pool, hanging out on the patio, watching movies, playing games and more. The second day, we hiked down to the bus for an exciting day at Dollywood Amusement Park. The weather was cloudy but nice. The lines were long, but we managed to still have a great time before the rain arrived. It was so rewarding to be able to hear how the students enjoyed themselves. This was most of our students’ first experience at an amusement park. They had many stories to share when we returned to the cabin.
This trip really allowed the Student Support Services participants and staff to get to know one another better. The fellowship amongst those who attended was remarkable. We returned to the cabin drained but the students were still going. The night consisted of cooking, movies, games, comedy and packing to prepare for 6 a.m. departure for our trip back to the Utica Campus. Sunday morning as we headed home, I was satisfied knowing the trip was a success and the students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The nine-hour trip back home was just what they needed … rest!
Written By Tara N. Johnson
Director of Student Support Services
Hinds Community College - Utica Campus