Most students were unaware that Aramark held a celebration Thursday morning to mark the opening of the newly renovated J Street. But when junior Michael Thomas found out about the event late Wednesday night, he milked his scarce knowledge for hundreds of dollars in free meals and grocery items.
Thomas won 57 free food vouchers for Marvin Center venues for being the first person in line when the event began. Thomas said he was studying in the Marvin Center when he found out about the contest. He camped out from 10 p.m. Wednesday until 7:30 a.m. Thursday in order to win the vouchers.
Thomas said the other four people who stood in line with him entered the contest because they saw him camped out on the floor.
Thomas was one of only a handful of students who took advantage of the sparsely attended celebration. He said he knew he had a chance to cash in on the prizes because no one else had heard about the contests.
“I hate J Street,” Thomas said. “But for (free food vouchers) I can make use of it. It can help finance my poor adventures.”
Many students who showed up for the event were excited for the opportunity to win prizes.
Nisha Chadha, a sophomore, took part in the “Coke Cash Capture” in which students stood in a Plexiglas container trying to grab coupons that whirled around them. “I won everything,” she said. “A T-shirt, Coke and coupons for Einstein’s and the District Market.”
Other students said they were not impressed by the Aramark event.
“I don’t think they advertised well,” sophomore Jane Chang said. “They didn’t even tell us why the games were there. There were no signs or anything.”
Besides winning nearly two months worth of free food, Thomas also won the chance to do a two-minute “dash” through the District Market, picking up as many items as was possible in the time period. Thomas won the opportunity by being the student to raise the most money for a voter registration campaign.
Because no one knew of this contest, however, he only had to donate $26 dollars from his own pocket. He finished with nearly $300 worth of free items.
“There are a lot of condoms and razor blades in that,” Thomas said. “I’m happy … I made about $800 in 24 hours … that’s not a bad scheme.”
ABC’s “Good Morning America” showed up at the event to interview Sean White, director of GW Votes. The group’s mission is to register students to vote and also educate and aid students in getting absentee ballots out. “Good Morning America” returned to the Marvin Center Thursday night to gauge student opinion about the first presidential debate.
“We are the ones looking for jobs after college and fighting in Iraq,” White said. “The more the youth vote is heard, the more our issues are heard.”
At about 11 a.m., speeches welcoming the new renovations took place, and Omar Woodward, president of the Student Association, cut the celebration cake as the Media Monument was lit. The Media Monument is the two-story replica of the Washington Monument in the center of J Street.
Renovations were 98 percent complete for the opening, said Gene Hood, regional district manager of Aramark.
While many freshmen seemed to like what J Street offers, many upperclassmen questioned whether the changes were necessary.
“The new J Street does not have as many options, it’s more expensive, and lines are extremely slow,” junior David Benitez said. “I mean the business people had a cake to celebrate the new grand opening, while students are standing right next to them complaining about the lack of service at one of the food places.”
-Bryn Lansdowne contributed to this report.