By Daniel Priest
The convocation ceremony inside Blake Arena at Springfield College during NSO is a scene unlike anything an incoming college freshman could ever imagine. New students fill the bleachers with their beanies, matching t-shirts, and first day jitters.
As the gym fills, the chaos begins. The cheers, ones every student on campus knows, echo throughout the gym. The NSO leaders dance around singing and shouting, while the new students initially stare blankly.
Partaking in those cheers requires courage, and could be considered a risk. Back in 2015, Cam Labelle, a sophomore transfer student coming to Springfield College, heard those cheers for the first time. By 2017, he was one of those NSO leaders down on the Blake Arena floor leading the chants.
“NSO was kind of just that first thing for me,” Labelle said reflecting back on his time as a participant in the program. “I loved it so much that I applied to be an NSO leader, and I end[ed] up having the awesome opportunity to get that. That was just an incredible experience, I learned a lot about myself,” he said.
Labelle spent his junior and senior years as an NSO leader. He worked exclusively with the transfer squad (t-squad) and left a huge impact on that group, and the program as a whole.
Annie Warchol, the Director of Student Activities and Campus Union, who works closely with the NSO leaders, credited Labelle for what he did for the program.
“His passion, energy, and devotion to transfer students was something that elevated and raised the bars for the other t-squad members to aspire to be,” she said. “He took that job so seriously, and really built and helped create a community for the transfer students.”
Warchol added, “Cam was a driving force behind why that’s successful. Just his passion, and hoping that people are connected and living their best lives- he just kind of emulates that.”
However, Labelle’s NSO impact, in addition to other contributions during his undergraduate years at Springfield, would not have been possible without changing his original plan.
Before he arrived on Alden Street, Labelle had originally gone to Quinnipiac University for his freshman year. “I went there and at the beginning of the year I loved it,” he said. “I did really well at orientation and everything, I made a couple of friends, I ended up having a good group of roommates, that was a plus.”
As time progressed, that feeling began to change. “As the year progressed I kind of realized I didn’t fit in there. Once I got to know the campus community more and more and the different students that went there I kind of realized it just wasn’t the place for me,” he said.
“For the first time in my life it was tough for me to make friends, and a couple other personal things happened in regards to my roomates. Not fights, just stuff that was happening in their home lives that ended up having a really big affect on me negatively,” Labelle added. “By second semester I kind of just realized that I needed to get out.”
So he did. Labelle, a native of Ludlow, called a couple of his close friends from high school. Ciara McCready and Bri Saloio, both students at Springfield, encouraged Labelle that Springfield was the place for him.
“They both kind of blew up over the phone,” Labelle said. “They were like, ‘Cam, you need to transfer here, I could see you doing this and this and this and being so involved,’ I trusted them and filled out an application and made those final moves to transfer here and it ended up being the best decision of my entire life.”
Prior to NSO, Labelle told himself he had to commit and love the school, and he did. “I just needed to come in with an open attitude, and I loved NSO. I put everything into it like I said I would. I did my best to create connections through it, I ended up making some of my best friends through NSO,” he said.
From his sophomore to senior year on campus, Labelle had a tremendous impact on campus. He was a part of multiple programs including the aforementioned role as an NSO Leader, a student ambassador, and a member of Blast. He also attended leadership summit, a program that he called “life changing,” and he ended up being a site leader for Blast. Labelle was one of the most energetic student ambassadors on campus, and he excelled in the classroom too.
It was not until late in his senior year that things changed. Similar to after his freshman year at Quinnipiac, Labelle reached a crossroads once again
“About halfway through my senior year in November, I kind of had a moment, an epiphany I would say. I woke up and I kind of just realized I couldn’t see myself doing [PT] for the rest of my life,” he said.
Labelle had been a Sports Biology major looking to go into PT, but that changed in November. “After a pretty crazy month of talking to my family, friends, certain people across campus, especially Anne Warchol in student activities, I ended up throwing out all my PT applications and then I applied for higher education programs at a few different colleges and universities, and I got in here at Springfield, and now I’m back.”
Labelle, having taken another risk with his education and career path, felt as though he was finally on the right track.
Now, Labelle works in the Union as a graduate assistant and is taking courses towards his new path. He is in is a spot program which stands for Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education.”
Looking back now, every change he made and every risk he took proved to be worth it. From Quinnipiac to Springfield, and from Sports Bio to Higher Education. Labelle feels he is right where he belongs.
“At the end of the day I know classes are important and that’s what you’re paying for to get that degree, but in my experiences, I learned so much more outside the classroom in the programs I was involved in and everything like that, so that’s one of the biggest reasons why I decided to apply for higher education,” he said.
“I wanted to help facilitate that, I wanted to help college students realize their own potential and their passions in life, because a lot of times in life things change,” he said. “People don’t know what they want to do at 18 years old, or they change their mind, and I just want to be one of those people on a college campus that helps not only make the transition to college easy, but also just their entire experience here the best it can possibly be.”
Warchol now works closely with Cam as they are in the same office space, and she can see his growth on a daily basis. “I think him teaching others that the more you put out there and the more things you try, you may never say, ‘Why did I even do this,’” she said.
“At times it’s scary for him, because it’s very different. He’ll succeed because that’s what Cam does. If he puts his mind to it and his energy to it, he will succeed,” Warchol said.
As for Labelle, he is not looking back; he’s only looking forward. “My biggest passion in life has always been working with people, and especially working with college students. That’s why I chose this path,” he said.
Going forward, Labelle aspires to have a positive impact on college students in the future. “There are different chapters of our lives and each chapter has its own peaks. Taking risks I think is more just about putting yourself out there in college,” he said.
All photos courtesy of Cam Labelle