On Saturday, Oct. 20 Kean University hosted its annual homecoming with this year's theme as Star Wars: Return of the Cougars.
The event took place simultaneously on the Kean Hall parking lot and the Harwood Arena parking lot, with the tailgate events in the Harwood Arena parking lot and the homecoming carnival on the Kean Hall parking lot.
Fraternities and sororities teamed up together to table, decorate and create skits and shirts for the tailgate. Each table boasted their Kean pride within the Homecoming theme of Star Wars. Kean students and guests enjoyed the creativity of each table as they danced to the festive music played by a live DJ. Each collaboration was judged with a resulting tie between the Nu Sigma Phi and Delta Phi Epsilon collaboration and the Nu Delta Pi and Theta Phi Alpha collaboration.
Two food trucks, Rita's Italian Ice and Wafels & Dinges, were also parked at the Hardwood Arena parking lot for guests to enjoy as well as some tables from clubs and organizations such as the Catholic Newman Club, Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Residential Student Services (RSS) and the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS).
As the tailgate ensued, attendees could also visit the Kean Hall parking lot where all the homecoming carnival events were being held. Students and alumni checked into their corresponding table in order to receive tickets that were redeemable for food, games or activities.
Some carnival games included "Stock Race," "Spin-the-Wheel," "Flip-a-Chick" and "Water Fun" where players could compete to win stuffed donuts, frogs, snakes and other toys.There were also rides, activities and inflatable obstacle courses and games for kids to enjoy. Attendees could also choose from a wide selection of food such as pizza, bratwurst, pork roll and cheese, hot dogs, funnel cake, Philly cheese steaks, mozzarella sticks, zeppoles and more. All food and events at the homecoming carnival was free for everyone to enjoy.
Sierra James, sophomore psychology and psychiatric rehabilitation major and member of the pep band, mentioned how fun homecoming was.
"We get to be social and interact with everybody, win free stuff, get some free food and watch the game. Homecoming is just so fun [in that] everybody gets to see each other, have fun and connect. It's just the whole Kean community [out here]," James said.
Homecoming is an especially big event for Kean alumni as it is a chance to come back to see old peers and new updates at Kean. For some alumni, homecoming is a family tradition.
Teaira Larose, Class of 2006, said, "My husband and I met at Kean, and we come back as a tradition every year now. We get to bring our kids back so they can see where we met and where we went to school."
Larose also remarked how she always thought they do a good job making homecoming a fun event for everyone.
For some alumni, homecoming 2018 was their first year back at Kean since graduating.
Josemaria Libarnes, Class of 2009, said, "I wasn't going to come actually, but I was invited by a couple of friends who work in the school. I'm here and glad I came because I haven't seen these [friends] in a while and I haven't seen the school in about 10 years now. There's a lot of different things that have changed and a lot of buildings that I don't recognize. So, it's pretty cool and very nice to be back."
For other alumni, Kean University has never stopped being home.
Shelley Sheiner, Class of 1995 and head coach of Kean's Men's Lacrosse, said, "This is my 27th homecoming and I love it. It gets better and better each year. I look at homecoming as one of my favorite holidays."
For current Kean students, homecoming is a time to let loose and reunite with old classmates.
Kenya Silas, sophomore music major, said, "[Homecoming] is just a great time. It's one of the times during the school year where you see the school out here the most. It's a big gathering and it's really cool. I love the festivities and everybody is having a wonderful time. People bring their families out here, and it's very family friendly and just a great time to connect with everybody."
Alannah Sullivan, junior psychology and American sign language double major and sister of Nu Theta Chi, said, "Homecoming is great because not only is everyone on campus coming together but also the community, especially Greek life and all the other organizations, come together to put on the best homecoming that we can."
Homecoming can also be a time for Kean students to give back to the community by working or volunteering for the event.
Caroline Santos, senior psychology major with a minor in criminal justice, said, "For an event like [homecoming], when you see all these people come out that haven't been here for years and still have love for this school, it's really great because Kean is a growing school and [Kean students] see that it's going to have so much potential...in the future. So, it's nice to know that there are other students like me who want to put [in] as much work [into the school] to make it a great school."
As the Kean Carnival came to a close, attendees moved toward the football field to see the match up of Kean University versus The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). At half time, students eagerly anticipated the announcing of winners for the prizes of a $500 Barnes and Nobles gift card, Macbook Pro, reserved parking spot and the "One Semester on Us" grand prize from Kean Expedition.
The following students won the highly valued prizes:
- Ainsley Stephens won the $500 Barnes and Nobles gift card
- Adam Casper won the Macbook Pro
- Julia Saladino won the reserved parking spot
- Ashley Coates won the "One Semester on Us" grand prize
Afterward, homecoming king and queen were announced with senior psychology major Kyle Kreske winning king and senior history and special education major Gabriella Lapointe winning queen.
Lapointe said, "I was not at all expecting to win. I just entered thinking it would be something fun to do my senior year. I was also honored to be up next to such amazing women, Lexi and Iffy."
Despite the loss against TCNJ in the football game, homecoming continued to be a win for everyone who attended.
Lapointe remarks, "Overall, the entire day was such a great experience. There were so many wonderful events and activities going on starting out with the tailgate leading up to the game! I cannot wait to come back to homecoming next year, as an alumni, to see what Kean has in store."