Within her first two years at Merrimack, Caitlin Henaghan ’25 became an active member in five different student groups across campus.
Now entering her junior year, Henaghan is an active member of the college’s orientation team, Office of Student Involvement, Theta Phi Alpha, Relay for Life planning committee, and the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program.
Her advice to incoming freshmen looking to get involved at Merrimack is simple – be fearless.
“I wasn’t afraid to go to things alone,” she said. “I went to my first meeting alone. It can seem super scary, but everyone’s there to help you and put you in the right direction. You’ll find your people there.”
Henaghan herself admits she had to get over her shyness during her freshman year. Her first plan of action was to check out the Student Involvement Fair. This year’s first fair will be held on Friday, from noon to 2 p.m., at O’Brien Plaza.
“It has a bunch of clubs and organizations (and) they have tables there,” she explained. “You can sign their interest form and get added to their email list. Club sports will be there as well and you can learn more about their try out process.”
It was there where she was introduced to Relay for Life. The annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society sees participants walking as many laps around Lawler Rink as they can. Some events go overnight and well into the next morning.
“Relay for Life was something I always wanted to do as I participated in it in my home town for my whole life” she said. “It’s a bigger club and the members are involved in a lot of other things. I met people at Relay for Life and that’s what encouraged me to apply to be an Orientation Leader..”
During the summer going into her sophomore year, Henaghan worked as an orientation leader. This past summer, she worked five days a week as an Orientation Coordinator preparing for this year’s incoming students.
“I planned orientation programming and worked with four other orientation coordinators and supervisors,” she said of her most recent work. “I completed a lot of the logistical planning such as coordinating balloons and golf carts. I also worked closely with professionals on campus to make sure their sessions were all lined up and everyone was in their right place.”
After having some good luck at the fall Student Involvement Fair, Henaghan decided to check out its second iteration the following spring. There, she learned about the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program.
“We’d reached out to special education departments in Andover, North Andover and Methuen to see who was interested in joining,” Henaghan explained. “We just played games with (the children) – basketball, kickball, even just throwing a ball around. It’s an eight-week session held every Sunday, and it’s very laid back. I always encourage people to (volunteer), especially those who like playing with kids.”
The program ended up being a great fit for Henaghan as she hopes to one day become a kindergarten teacher. Currently, she’s majoring in human development and human services with a concentration in early childhood education.
“This year is starting to dig into the material you need to know as a teacher like the laws of education,” Henaghan said. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences getting into classrooms through the pre-practice and service learning programs. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to (do so) so early on.”
Also in her freshman year, some of Henaghan’s friends expressed interest in rushing a sorority. She ended up joining Theta Phi Alpha and now serves as the sorority’s recruitment chairperson.
“I was hesitant to join at first,” Henaghan admitted, “but it’s not like the stereotypical Greek life. It’s nice that everyone has the same values as you. It’s just another place to build bonds on campus.”
As for her junior year, Henaghan said she’s looking forward to seeing her work with the Office of Student Involvement pay off, especially helping at this year’s Block Party, Macktoberfest and Homecoming.
“As a student I’ve gone to these events,” she said, “but now being able to work these events and see all your friends attend them, it’s really cool.”