Westmont Welcomes Record-Breaking Class of '09

They arrived with boxes, pillows, computers and probably some anxiety. For many of these teens, it’s their first time living away from home. About 340 first-year students representing the Class of 2009 have begun their Westmont College career. The fall 2005 orientation kicked off Thursday, Aug. 25, as students arrived with their parents and unloaded their belongings into the residence halls.

Some students have overcome great challenges and chose Westmont over highprofile schools because of Westmont’s commitment to a high-quality undergraduate education with strong Christian commitments. Ateshim(Tish) Demsas is a native of Ethiopia and has been living in the United States for about eight years. His parents and two sisters fled the war-torn African nation, but his parents were deported from the United States and forced to return. Tish says he and his sisters had few options and were forced to live with an aunt and uncle in New Jersey.

“You just mature quicker and there are some things in life you just have to take. I’ll always be thankful for them (my aunt and uncle) taking us in out of the blue. Dad was Eritrean, and we knew that if we went back we’d have to fight (in the war).”

Tish didn’t see his parents for two or three years, but now they are back together, living in Redondo beach.

“I’m really excited and so is my whole family. I’m going to start something new, a new chapter in my life. I’m pretty determined. I want to make it with all that’s gone on in my life. I can’t look back, I have to look forward and that’s Westmont.”

The incoming class is one of the strongest in college history. Westmont was recently heralded by U.S. News & World Report which ranked the school in the highest tier amongst the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. The honors grade-point average of this first-year class has soared to 3.95, up from 3.86 in fall 2004. The average SAT score of first-year students is 1230, up ten points from last year.

Westmont received a record 2,093 applications this year for admission. There are eight new National Merit Scholars, bringing the total number on campus to 20. Also, 68 percent of the 340 first-year students are Academic Merit Scholars, meaning
they’ve received one of several Westmont scholarships based on academic excellence.

This will also be the first year that Monroe scholars will be graduating from Westmont. Physics major Kyle Watters ‘06 and religious studies major Luke Oliver ‘06 were the first to receive the exclusive scholarship. It’s the highest academic honor an incoming student may receive. Kristen Gaylord was one of four first-year students to win the Monroe Scholarship this year. Every February, the Westmont Office of Admissions invites 30 students to campus to compete for the Monroe fulltuition
scholarships. Kristen has a 1520 SAT and a 4.80 GPA and says she was courted by numerous other prestigious colleges.

“I always wanted to go to a Christian school and that was the first criteria. I also wanted a small school, so that narrowed it down even further. And then I started looking at academics and it was a fit. The academic rigor at Westmont was what I was
looking for.”

The class of ‘09 will also be the most racially diverse. Twenty-nine percent of the 340 first-year students are of color, compared to 25 percent last year. And 26 percent of all new students (which includes transfer students) are of color, an overall increase of five percent over last year. There will also be two new international students, bringing the total number on campus to ten.

Students will be coming to Westmont from 29 states, with a majority from California. There will be 46 new students from the tri-counties area. Chris Targoni is just one of five incoming students from Carpinteria High School. The standout prep
football player says the choice to come to Westmont came easily.

“Just through prayer, “Chris says,”The Lord told me he wanted me to go there.”

Chris recently returned from a two-week service trip to Thailand. Twenty-eight members of Reality Carpinteria took part in the trip, constructing a new orphanage and bonding with the children.

“It was rad,” says the 18-year old. “The Lord did a lot of work in our hearts. It was cool just to help out.”

Chris says while at Westmont he hopes to get a good education and make some good friends.

“I’m not sure what I want to do in my future. I’m still waiting for the Lord.”

Students took the First Walk with Westmont faculty, a ceremony that anticipates the last walk students take at Commencement. The ceremony concluded with a picnic dinner on the lawns around the picturesque Kerrwood Hall.