Soaring to New Heights at the Junior Retreat: Class of 2018

September 26, 2016

Zip lining from the ropes was a rewarding feeling after the stress of walking on the tightropes. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

Zip lining from the ropes was a rewarding feeling after the stress of walking on the tightropes. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

The junior class retreat is a remarkable highlight of the AHN high school experience. This year’s annual retreat took place at Dayspring Episcopal Conference Center on September 23, 2016. While the primary focus in previous years was discussion, prayer, and teambuilding on the ground, the junior retreat allows students to take these skills to a whole new level.

Teamwork was crucial in completing the challenging tasks on the high ropes. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)
Teamwork was crucial in completing the challenging tasks on the high ropes. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

The day began at 7:30, as the Class of 2018 loaded onto three buses headed to Dayspring. When the buses arrived after an hour trek, the girls gathered in a small outdoor chapel area for a prayer service before the activities began. During the morning prayers, the idea was introduced to students of the importance each girl has in the “body” of Christ.

Reflection questions were posed, “Are you the eyes? Do you help others see important things? Are you the feet? Do you help others stay grounded and balanced?” These questions connected faith to the teamwork skills necessary for the day’s endeavors.

Before students began the activities, the guidance department hid posters throughout the courses. Each poster had a word related to the teamwork of a body. Posters read words like “community” and “teamwork” to remind groups the importance of working together as one body. Groups were encouraged to find as many posters as possible, and remember the importance of the words while working through the challenges of the day.

Mr. Butterly loved attending the special retreat and witnessing the girls work outside of their comfort zones. Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online
Mr. Butterly was happy to attend the special retreat and witnessing the girls work outside of their comfort zones. Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online

Junior Aine Campion explains, “I liked the connection to the body because it made so much sense; every person provides a different characteristic to the class as a whole that allows us to function together.”

Junior Katherine Hahn (left) was voted the "feet" of her group because she helped the group stay grounded and focus on the task at hand. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)
Junior Katherine Hahn (left) was voted the “feet” of her group because she helped the group stay grounded and focus on the task at hand. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

After reflecting, the girls were met with the awesome members of Common Ground Adventures who would lead the ropes courses. After being broken up into groups of approximately ten, the juniors headed out to participate in exciting teambuilding activities.

Juniors Caitlyn Helms (left) and Meghan Curing (right) test their teamwork skills on Dayspring's newest rope challenge. With tires and small ladders, this difficult activity requires teams of two to climb up the swinging tires and scale the ladders to reach the top of the structure. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)
Juniors Caitlyn Helms (left) and Meghan Curinga (right) test their teamwork skills on Dayspring’s newest rope challenge. With tires and small ladders, this difficult activity requires teams of two to climb up the swinging tires and scale the ladders to reach the top of the structure. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

Junior Isabella Sebek loved the challenging high rope activities, exclaiming, “I was so surprised by my willingness to do some of the activities. What made them easier was the encouragement I received from my sisters.”

The goal of the various games and activities was to develop a strong trust between the girls that they may have not had before.

Whether working with new students or girls that have been at AHN since high school, the bonds made at this retreat are stronger than ever. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)
Whether working with new students or girls that have been at AHN since high school, the bonds made at this retreat are stronger than ever. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

The activities ranged from hilarious rounds of Tarzan Baseball to the daunting 35-foot Leap of Faith. According to the leaders from Common Ground, they had only seen a handful of people successfully grab onto the hanging bar after taking the leap off the pole. After trying once, and receiving enlightening encouragement from her group members, Sierra Wills took the leap a second time, achieving her goal of reaching the bar.

Wills remarks, “It felt amazing. My team was cheering and I was cheering. Although it was extremely scary, I couldn’t have done it without my team members there. They are what made me want to try again.”

Although it was extremely daunting climbing the high of the huge trees, the girls all agreed the view (and bonds formed) were worth it. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)
Although it was extremely daunting climbing the hight of the huge trees, the girls all agreed the view (and bonds formed) were worth it. Photo Credit: Haley Palumbo (used with permission)

Wills’ group also completed a challenging task that required teams to spread apart on a wooden plank that was supported only by the middle, making it unsteady all around the edges. The goal was to stay balanced while singing a song all the way through. After successfully completing “Happy Birthday”, rather than stopping there, the group decided to challenge their teamwork by remaining balanced while singing the AHN Alma Mater. Common Ground leaders gathered around and smiled as they watched the girls work and sing the special song together.

Wills' group celebrated no only their completion of the difficult task, but their ability to go above and beyond their leader's expectations. Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online
Wills’ group celebrated no only their completion of the difficult task, but their ability to go above and beyond their leader’s expectations. Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online

After a tiring day, the Class of 2018 gathered on the famous wooden steps to snap a class photo and reflect on the bonds they created during through each and every activity. Each girl left with a smile on her face and a closer bond to her sisters.

New high school counselor Ms. Pantellis helped the girls capture this unique panoramic photo: Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online
New high school counselor Ms. Pantellis helped the girls capture this unique panoramic photo: Photo Credit: Alex Smith/Achona Online

Christina Suarez-Solar states, “I learned that we will always help one another no matter what.”

The junior retreat was a memorable milestone for the Class of 2018, and will forever be remembered by all of the girls. The inclusion and connection of individual importance to the class as a whole will forever resonate with each and every student.

Junior Haley Palumbo shares, “The body of Christ connection was really interesting. At first, It was hard to picture each of us being one part that all works together. I questioned myself as to where I stood. But throughout the day, it was amazing how I found who I was through others. We all became one through helping each other and working together. It was a perfect connection guide! I don’t think there could have been a better one.”

The skills learned throughout the day will continue to benefit the Junior Class for years to come.

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