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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Students hop shuttles to mall, supermarket to grab essentials before classes begin”

    Rita Lichamer/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Rita Lichamer/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

    As the first few drops of rain pelted the CatTran windows, a handful of freshmen darted glances out at the gray Tucson afternoon. By local standards, it was a pleasant day, but it offered a somewhat grim landscape for these newcomers as they rolled out on what, for some of them, may well have been their first cross-town bus trip.

    For the past 11 years, the UA has offered free shuttle transportation to local stores — this year, Fry’s and Tucson Mall — as a way to help out newcomers who might feel stranded in their new homes.

    “”The intent is to give new students a way to get some shopping done,”” said Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life and University Housing.

    The CatTran drivers chatted with the passengers, pointing out local sights and tossing free bottles of water to newcomers. Sal Aguilar,  a shuttle driver, said he’d mostly seen freshmen on the trips.

    Becky Cothard, a nutritional sciences freshman, said she was on the hunt for new gym shoes.

    “”I think it’s really nice that they’re offering this,”” she said. “”I knew about the shuttles (before coming here) but I didn’t know they were going to be free.””

    Adam Weiner, a physiology freshman, said he was going to look for hats, clothes and shoes.

    What kind of groceries are the class of 2012 stocking up on?

    “”Turkey sandwiches,”” Weiner said.

    “”Ramen noodles, and PB & J,”” Cothard chimed in.

    Deena Markind, a psychology freshman, said she just wanted to walk around the mall.

    Morina Pierce, a veterinary sciences freshman, hopped on the bus around noon for a trip to the mall and Fry’s, then missed her stop and found herself on a second go-round. Under her arm was a set of twin sheets she’d picked up at Macy’s that afternoon for $100.

    “”I way overpacked for groceries,”” she said. “”I stocked up on a bunch of lunch meat and bread, and it’s gonna go bad before I can eat it.””

    Juliette Moore, co-chair of Wildcat Welcome and director of Campus Recreation, likes to hop on the first shuttle every year just to make sure things are running smoothly. Moore started the program in 1999.

    “”We were looking at ways to allow students to have access to the mall, especially incoming freshmen,”” Moore said. “”Possibly even to go see a movie if they wanted to.”” Moore said Wildcat Welcome approached the different businesses involved and got support from them in order to finance the shuttle trips.

    The first shuttles on Friday morning drew handfuls of students every half-hour. As the afternoon came, the rush came and went. By late Friday, the crowd had dwindled to a handful of graduate students in search of groceries. The next day, shuttle traffic was up considerably.

    “”It ebbs and flows,”” Moore said, adding that Saturday was usually the biggest draw for the shuttle. “”By that time, they’ve had a chance to settle into their apartment and see what the need is.””

    Driver Lu Donahue said she’s seen several parents come along for the ride.

    “”The parents sometimes take the ride too so they don’t have to park!”” Moore said, laughing. “”Save some gas.””

    The trips aren’t over. Moore said two more shuttles will be available next Saturday, Aug. 29, from noon to 6 p.m.

    As her final stop approached on Saturday, Pierce seemed worn out from her afternoon’s travels.

    “”I’m probably just gonna go back to my dorm and take a nap before the whole block party thing tonight,”” she said.

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