It was a picture-perfect day and pictures, among other things, were the order of the day at Washtenaw Community College’s 13th annual Welcome Day event at Community Park.

More than a thousand people crowded the campus park on Sept. 15 to sample food, learn about college clubs and organizations and for many, take selfies with WCC President Dr. Rosa B. Bellanca.

Approximately 40 representatives from businesses within the Ann Arbor area were present, including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Marco’s Pizza and Old Carolina Barbeque.

In the last 10 years, Welcome Day has grown from having only 14 display table attendees to 96 this year. It’s believed that this year’s event drew its highest turnout yet at nearly 2,000 students.

Welcome Day may appear carnival-like with tents, food and music, but its main purpose is to inform students about available programs and services and encourage them to get involved outside of class.

“We want students to know they are welcome on this campus and that we’re excited they’re here,” said Rachel Barsch, coordinator of Student Activities, which sponsored the event. “We also want to help students make connections with various departments and clubs while meeting new friends.”

Just how big of a role does a student’s connection play in their education? According to a 2011 scholarly article titled, “Positive Effects of Extra Curricular Activities on Students” written by Erin Massoni, students who feel more connected to school and participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to drop out and more likely to have higher academic achievement. This ultimately improves the retention rate of a college or university.

“When students find that they’re a part of that institution, then they have a reason to attend college outside of just taking classes,” Barsch said.

Other Welcome Day highlights:

WCC students made wax molds of their hands and got airbrush tattoos.

WCC students wrote down their favorite things about WCC on the 50th anniversary display board.

“Potential Hero,” a music group consisting of three WCC students took the stage to perform several songs.

WCC rented a Tiki Hut for the stage to pass out chips and beverages to students.

“I don’t know what it is, but the air on Welcome Day always seems magical. It’s such a free-flowing, high-energy, student-driven event,” Barsch said. “There’s something for everyone.”

For economics major Nina Pu, who also works at Student Activities, Welcome Day is about more than the food, freebies and fun activities. Last year, Pu emigrated from Shanghai, China to Maryland and then again to southeast Michigan and credits Welcome Day for sharpening her English-speaking skills.

“I like meeting new people and being here today helps because I get to interact with different people constantly,” Pu said. “At the last Welcome Day, I couldn’t communicate with many people, but this year is different.” Welcome Day concluded with Dr. Bellanca taking the stage to deliver some informal remarks to the crowd.

“We’re looking forward to a great semester,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make this event a success. It’s great seeing you all today and I’d like to extend a warm welcome to each of you.”

Welcome Day was such a success that several students already have plans to return next year.

“This was my first time attending Welcome Day,” said math and science major Bushra Habbas-Nimer. “I had such a good time meeting new people and learning about the different clubs and organizations on campus that I’ve already signed up for seven clubs. I’ll definitely be back.”