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A group of York College students will see where a Spartan degree can get them — literally.

Thirteen students — part of a group known as the “YCP Road Crew” — will travel to seven cities across the mid-Atlantic to visit York College alums working in their career fields as part of the college’s SpartaNation tour.

The road trip, which kicks off Jan. 3, will have students meet with professionals based in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, among other spots.

SpartaNation, an annual tour since 2013, has become a networking opportunity for current students and a recruitment tool for industry professionals. The students who participate are nominated by their professors.

The program was piloted in 2009 and brought back in 2013 as a way for then-newly appointed York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith to get to know more about the college’s alumni network.

Some of the York College alums that students will meet are employees of NBC Universal, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Philadelphia 76ers and the U.S. Department of Education, among other companies.

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On Jan. 11, the 13 students are scheduled to tour the White House.

The visit — coordinated by Jeff Vermeulen, York College's assistant vice president of external relations — has many students excited, according to Kristin Schab, director of the college's alumni relations.

She said the potential opportunities for the 13 selected road crew members are endless.

“They will be talking about (SpartaNation) at their five-year reunion and 10-year reunion,” Schab predicted. “They’re really put into some unique and rewarding situations to network with these professionals, all while receiving interviewing and professional tips of how to be successful in the workplace.”

Winter road trip: The students will embark on the SpartaNation tour during York College’s winter break.

“It’s about three solid weeks that these students are entirely devoting to this trip” instead of going back home for winter break, Schab said. “That says a lot about their character.”

Darby Frey, a Road Crew member and an intern at the alumni relations office, said she doesn’t mind losing the majority of her break to the trip, given the “really great opportunity” to network with professionals.

The York College senior is particularly excited for the New York City site visit, which includes a stop at Rockefeller Plaza to NBC’s "Today" show.

“I grew up watching ('Today'), so I can’t wait to see it in person,” she said.

Joseph Salerno, a second-year Road Crew member, recalled the YCP Road Crew’s visit to "Today" last year, during which one of last year’s members was selected for the show’s fourth-hour “Ambush Makeover” segment.

“We actually got a lot of airtime,” Salerno said of the group’s national spotlight.

While Road Crew students will take advantage of the full tour experience, current students, alumni and prospective students can get in on the networking opportunities.

Each stop along the SpartaNation tour will include a networking reception that is open for students and parents to meet with speakers and students.

Salerno said he is increasingly interested in speaking with prospective students about attending York College.

“I want to show them what we stand for,” he said, and why they should choose to come to York College over other schools they’re considering.

'Paying it forward': Schab said the experience has  an “outstanding” retention rate of Road Crew alums staying involved with the college after graduation.

Sean Altberger — a professional in one of the group’s first stops — is an alum of the YCP Road Crew program, according to Schab.

“It’s really nice to see students paying it forward,” Schab said.

Along with all of the opportunities to build connections with those in their fields, Salerno said the bonding experience is among the most memorable parts of the tour experience.

“We basically eat, breathe and sleep together on this bus for three weeks, and it's interesting to engage and learn about each other,” he said.

“We all come from different backgrounds and different involvements on campus ... yet we all kind of come together for one common goal.”

For more information on SpartaNation and to attend a reception at one of the tour’s stops, visit www.ycp.edu/spartanation.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correctly spell the last name of York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith.

— Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez at jgonzalez@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @EducationYD.

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