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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.