She and a group of about 20 other incoming University of Louisville students spent several days touring the sites and taking in as much of the city as they could before classes start in three weeks. They were part of the second Friend of LOUniversity camp, a joint program organized by the Office of Civic Engagement, Leadership and Service through a partnership with Greater Louisville Inc.’s Friend of Lou campaign.

The camp’s goal is to help students felt part of and welcomed to the city. According to Hadden, it worked.

The city seemed to embrace the incoming students, she said.

 “People just stopped in their cars and rolled down their windows to say ‘hello’ and ask what we were doing when they saw us walking around,” she said. “It was nice to be so welcomed.”

Throughout the camp, students went to such local attractions as the KFC Yum! Center, Slugger Field, 21C and the Frazier Museum. They also went on a tour of the city with Louisville Metro Councilman and historian Tom Owen and talked with such city leaders as Jennifer Rubenstine of the Louisville Independent Business Association; Angie Fenton, managing editor of the Voice Tribune newspaper; Heather Howell,  chief tea officer at Rooibie Red Tea; and Dawne Gee, WAVE 3 news co-anchor.

Fenton told the students about her own experience of moving to Kentucky from another state and adjusting to the new city. She said she’s grown to love Louisville’s activities and attraction.

This is a place filled with amazing people with wonderful ideas, she said. I really hope you have an amazing time here.

Students also headed out with flip cams to interview local people about what they love about Louisville and to put together a short video clip about their experiences so far.

Gerome Stephens, coordinator of student leadership at UofL, organizes the camp. He said it’s important for incoming students to get a better sense of the community they’re about to join ─ ranging from fun things to do, to better understanding its complex history. Focus groups indicate the camp is working.

They leave here with a much different perspective about the community they’re about join, he said. They’re doing things that they might not have known about. They’re learning about what Louisville has to offer that makes it so much greater than other college towns.

Before attending the Friends of Lou Camp, Hadden said her only real introduction to the city was a tour of Belknap Campus. It was nice to be able to experience such things as a tour aboard the Belle of Louisville and a stroll through Waterfront Park, she said.

“It was nice to get out of the bubble and into the real world.” 

Besides UofL’s Office of Civic Engagement, Leadership and Service and Greater Louisville Inc., Friends of Lou Camp sponsors include LIBA, Rooibie Red Tea and The Comfy Cow Ice Cream.