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Freshmen arrive at SUNY Potsdam to start new college lives, say farewell to families

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POTSDAM — Paul Santana promised himself he wouldn’t cry when it came time to say goodbye to his daughter as he left her Thursday at SUNY Potsdam to start her freshman year of college.

But the tears started flowing as the two embraced in the parking lot outside Bowman Hall, the dormitory where Jazmine Santana, 18, will spend her first year away from home.

“I feel like a part of myself is coming out of my body,” Mr. Santana said as he and his wife, Inmaculada, got ready for the eight-hour drive back to their home in the Bronx. “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry like I did when my other two left for college, but it’s hard.”

The Santanas were among hundreds of students, parents and siblings who lugged crates, bins and other belongings into dormitory rooms during move-in day for SUNY Potsdam’s 850-member freshman class.

The halls and rooms buzzed with activity as families rearranged furniture, hooked up TVs and made up beds with fresh linens and comforters.

Jennifer N. Coleman and her husband, William J., of Fayetteville, were helping their son, Deven J., 18, organize his room in Bowman Hall. He is the first of their four children to leave the nest and plans to major in business.

“I had my little meltdown awhile ago, and I’ll probably have another one when we leave,” Mrs. Coleman said. “But I’m happy for him. This is a good move for him.”

Mr. and Mrs. Coleman both graduated from Clarkson University, so they’re familiar with Potsdam and the north country.

Brooke A. Lewis, a June graduate of Canton Central’s Hugh C. Williams High School, said she was waiting to meet her roommate, Erica, for the first time.

“I didn’t even know I had a roommate until I saw another name on the door,” she said.

Kevin E. Drazek, Baldwinsville, said he always feels a “roller coaster” of emotions when he drops his children off for their freshman year. His daughter, Elisa M. Drazek, 17, is the third in line out of four children.

Two others attend Loyola University and St. Bonaventure University.

“You’re happy, you’re anxious, you’re sad,” he said. “She’s going to move forward and start a new life.”

Ms. Drazek said she couldn’t really describe her feelings.

“I feel sort of shell-shocked. I don’t know what to feel,” she said as her father helped load items from their car into a large cart provided by the college for move-in day.

Bryan Archer, a native of Panama City, Panama, who is playing on the SUNY Potsdam men’s soccer team, said he arrived on campus two weeks ago to start twice-a-day practices with his teammates. He has lived in Brooklyn for the past two years and is majoring in computer science.

“It’s very relaxing here. All my life I’ve lived in a city. This environment is different. It’s quiet, and I like it,” he said.

So far, the freshman said he hasn’t been homesick, and he was busy helping others move their belongings into the dorm.

“I’m looking forward to doing well in my studies and being a good player on the soccer field,” the 18-year-old athlete said.

Freshmen arrived last week at three other area colleges, including about 800 at SUNY Canton, about 700 at Clarkson University and an estimated 610 at St. Lawrence University, Canton.

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