N.Y. attractions program expands

The Upstate Escapes program, formerly known as Best of Western New York, is a great way to see what New York has to offer. The different trips around New York not only give students a taste of the state, but help them bond with each other in the first few weeks of the semester.

"The main idea behind these trips is to foster a connection between the students and their peers, and connect them to the areas around them," said Carey Backman, assistant director of the program. "We want to expose students to cultural and social events so that they can experience things they may never have done but always wanted to. For example, students may want to go to a Broadway play or go white water rafting but never had the opportunity. Now they will have the chance to do these different types of activities and perhaps keep doing them after they've done the program."

This program is now offering grants to students to enrich the college experience. Grants are offered to student organizations, faculty and staff members in the amount of $300 towards the trip's cost, which primarily covers transportation. Along with the funding, promotional and planning assistance is provided to help with the trip.

"The grant is being offered to help students get connected to the teacher's mission," Backman stated. "The grant was set up so that student organizations or faculty members could share their interests with all the students on campus. This can also take a classroom experience and show it in the real world."

Upstate Escapes offers many fun trips that take place all over the state. They have already organized a trip to a Red Wings game, and an eco-service trip to see all the beautiful nature sites in the area. There has also been a trip to see the musical Avenue Q on Broadway and a trip to Darien Lake. More events are scheduled throughout the semester.

"I thought the trip was very well-organized," senior Joe Kotsis said about his trip to see Avenue Q. "It was really fun, I loved the musical and I made new friends." The bus left at 6 a.m. on Sept. 1 and returned at 6 a.m. the next morning. Considering the little time the group had in New York City, it was a great success. They saw Avenue Q, ate at the Hard Rock Café and then were given time to walk around and enjoy the city.

"This trip was one that I had wanted to do for a few years now," Backman said. "With the way we've renovated the program I finally had the chance."

A trip to Rochester is also being planned, where students can visit the outdoor ARTWalk Alive! festival with music, dancing and performing arts. "The ArtWalk trip was actually thought of by a professor who's offering the trip to his class instead of a test," Backman said when mentioning some of the grants that have been awarded. "The best part is that it is offered to the entire student body, not just to his class." Other trips, such as white water rafting, Letchworth Park and a Buffalo Bills game, are still on the way.

Most of these trips cost some money out of pocket, but they are reasonably priced and offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. They are geared toward the student body to help familiarize and introduce them to things that are fun to do around New York. These trips are always a great way to meet new people, do something new and have a better college experience overall.