By Lexi Sugar
ACHIM at UMD hosted an ice cream party outside of Hillel Monday night, the program’s first initiative of the year. ACHIM was created in an effort to foster a more welcoming environment for Jewish freshmen on campus.
According to its mission statement, ACHIM at UMD aims to provide freshmen not only with a channel for advice in college, but also a way to create events monthly that will aid in establishing a connection between freshmen and upperclassmen.
The volunteer program pairs older students with freshmen to create a big/little-esque atmosphere. Each freshman that signed up for the program was either paired with an ach or achot, the Hebrew words for brother and sister.
“Freshman year I had a hard transition, because I didn’t have any girl friends, so it would have been helpful. Then, I did find people to help me out so I wanted to repay the favor,” said senior Amanda Povman, the founder of ACHIM at UMD and a government and politics major.
Students who are participating as achim and achot, or upperclassmen role models, are prepared for their parts and are excited about the first year program.
“I hope my little brother gains a great experience in college, a great transition, but at the same time if he has any questions I’m happy to do anything for him, I’m happy to be by his side,” said Sam Ashkenazi, a sophomore in letters and sciences.
The ACHIM program is the first of its kind within the Jewish community at this university. With such a flourishing Jewish population, some were surprised that nothing like this program ever previously existed.
“I was talking to my friend in Michigan, and she was telling me that they had the same program called Michigan Mensches there. She said it was very helpful for her freshman year and then I was thinking that we have such an amazing Jewish vibrant community here it’s crazy that we didn’t have something like it here,” said Povman.
While the theme of having a big and a little may be reminiscent of Greek life on campus, the ACHIM program has distinct differences.
“Greek life is better in the sense that the bigs actually feel more committed to their littles because it is a mutual selection. Here it was me pairing the bigs and littles, so they didn’t have as much of a choice. It’s better here because everyone kind of has a common bond here because this isn’t mandatory, in Greek life it’s mandatory,” said Povman.
Freshmen, or the “littles,” within this program are enthusiastic about this special opportunity and feel lucky to be a part of the program.
“I think it is beneficial because it gives you the opportunity to reap the benefits of upperclassmen who understand the spot you are in and what you’re going through. Along with the things they had trouble with, anything they think you should know, and able to meet new people,” said Keren Pickholz, a freshman in letters and sciences.
ACHIM plans to have more events throughout the year such as shabbat dinners, learning opportunities, ice cream parties and community service.
“I think for the future I think it’s only gonna get bigger from here on out. I think there needs to be more of a board and people. Just more organized, I kind of just started this and I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Povman. “My surveys are all over the place … so I think it just needs to be more organized and more events in the future.”