Freshman Retreat


Audrey Mcgrail, Staff Writer

   With the first week of preseason under their belt, most LFA students spend the following weekend relaxing, finishing summer reading, and getting ready for school to start on Monday. Freshman begin their high school careers just the same way but with one difference; they head to Woodstock, Illinois to take part in a retreat at the Loyola Retreat Center with 101 of their fellow classmates and 13 or so LFA faculty and staff.

   For a typical freshman, learning that they must participate in this retreat  in an unfamiliar environment, with a group of kids they don’t know may seem daunting. But that’s the point.

   “Let’s be vulnerable,” Mr. Matt Nink remarked, “Let’s open up.”

   Nink, the organizer of this retreat and the Executive Director for both the Stuart Center for Global Leadership and the Global Youth Leadership Institute, believes that openness is a the key to forming a true community. It’s at this retreat where students can do just that.

   “The retreat was filled with new experiences and I met friends that will stay with me throughout high school.” remarked freshman, Adriana Bahena.

    Students go device-free (yes, no phones) for two and a half days and participate in group challenges like lifting each other up through a human-sized spider web and challenging themselves in a ropes course. Activities like this introduce what the LFA community is all about: bringing students together and conveying what good leadership and problem solving looks like.

  If students are able to open up in this setting and learn to solve problems, then they gain skills that allow them to be more equipped to engage in the community. Whether that is in Spanish class or on the soccer field, students will know how to problem-solve and think rationally as a group, with all types of different people. And they will have the retreat as one thing to thank for that.

  “When you go you maybe know one or two kids, but by the time you get back, you know 30 or 40,” Nink said, “It’s important that everyone partakes in this retreat. It’s boarders, day students, and ESL learners. There’s no division, it puts everyone in one place.”

  But this isn’t just an observation on what the benefits of having a community are; this is true science.

  “All the research on learning outcomes all say that you are a better learner when you know the people you’re learning with,” Nink stated.  

  Imagine that. If our communities at LFA,at home, or wherever we may find ourselves, took the effort to get to know each other, even just a little bit, we’d be that much more connected, and that much more successful in dealing with the problems we face. Students here value this, and that speaks highly of the community of LFA and what we strive for.