Was the Revamped Senior Retreat a Success?

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Maddie Cohen Co Editor in Chief   Already weeks after the first days of school, prompted by surveys and feedback forms, now is a time of reflection on the retreats that kicked off the year. While all of them are the foundation of a smooth transition back into the hectic school schedules that follow soon after, the senior retreat undeniably holds an unspoken special weight. The retreat itself is always kept secretive- the vague details that are shared publicly only inform the rest of the school of its importance and not many more specifics. This year, the senior retreat faced a series of major changes as the school revamped the traditional activities.   For the first time, all four grades’ retreats were pushed up to the first two days of school in an effort to avoid the jagged, start-stop feel that typically went along with having an initial day of normal school. “The faculty members have been discussing changing the choppiness of the start of school for awhile, (multiple years),” said senior dean Ms. McCarthy who played an instrumental role in the creation of the senior retreat.  “Last year, Mr. Graf made the final decision to try something new (retreats first and then classes) after much discussion in faculty meetings.”   But the senior retreat in particular underwent a significant remodeling this year, the most notable change being that it moved from its usual retreat center to an overnight lock-in on campus. This change was a result of feedback from previous classes and teacher discussions. As for activities, those too have changed slightly with the switch of location. “The most beloved aspects of the senior retreats from the past were incorporated into this year’s retreat,” said Ms. McCarthy. “The changes we made were meant to foster greater camaraderie, promote fun, and help students start off their senior year on a positive note.”     Before the retreats even took place there seemed to be strong opinions both in favor and in opposition of the changes, and now, although overall slightly more positive, responses are still all over the board. Those who enjoyed the retreat the least attributed their more negative experiences to issues like an uncomfortable night’s sleep on the gym floor, bad movie choices, and having to wake up early after a busy, tiring day and little rest to continue with activities on the second day.      Others had highly positive experiences. Senior Anabel Mendoza—who assisted with some planning over the summer and experienced both the process of putting it together as well the end product of the retreat—thought it was a success. “To an extent every retreat has trust exercises, but I thought the senior class bonded most when we were letting loose and having fun after a busy morning. Specifically during the ‘carnival’ portion of the retreat,” Anabel reflected. Holding the retreat on campus also allowed for money that would have been spent on the retreat center to be used on other activities, opening up new possibilities for what could take place. Sleeping over at the school was also led to some sentimentality among the senior class, reminding them of a middle school sleepover they once had.   There’s always been an undeniable shroud of secrecy surrounding the senior retreat, and it’s existed for as long as anyone can remember. But there are no real rules or guidelines enforcing this secrecy and most people aren’t entirely sure how this aura of mystery even came about; each year, it just manages to evolve and create itself on its own. It could be that the very nature of the retreat leads to its secrecy. Most of this comes from not wanting to ruin the surprise, teachers only choosing not to share activities before they take place to increase the level of fun. This year yearbook was asked not to take pictures of any specific activities, again not because of an attempt at secrecy, but simply not to ruin the surprise for anyone who had not yet experienced it. “Working closely with my dean on [planning/coordinating the retreat,] I learned that by the end of the retreat we want seniors walking away having been able to talk to people they don’t usually socialize with, and connect with everyone on a more personal level,” Anabel commented, offering her perspective having seen firsthand what the retreat entails. “I wouldn’t say the senior retreat is a ‘mystery,’ rather there’s a common understanding that whatever the class shared during that time was with each other only.”   The senior retreat has made itself a cornerstone of Latin tradition, weaving itself, in all its secrecy, into our school culture, undaunted by location or date or activity changes. Despite how it may appear to those of us non-seniors who haven’t gone through it, we’ll just have to piece together the vague stories we’ll hear in the hallways and wait for our own first week of senior year. It’s a mystery we have to resign to, accepting the fact that we’ll just have to wait for our time to fully understand.    ]]>