Editorial: The changes within the freshman and senior retreats


Photo by Briana Murphy

Both the freshman and senior retreats were partially held in LFA’s very own formal gardens.

The freshman retreat is a time for students to connect, being new to the school, and learn a little more about what the LFA experience will be. The freshman retreat began in 2017 with the class of 2021. It was to help students connect without the pressure of an academic setting. It usually spans over a couple of days and takes place off-campus as an overnight trip with several activities and discussions to go through in a safe space. 

This year, things were a little different due to LFA’s covid restrictions, with the freshman retreat being only one day and taking place around campus near or within the formal gardens. Among other activities, the day consisted of three discussions that grappled with racism, homophobia, and social media use in inappropriate ways. 

The full list of activities included four more informal activities and a lunch break. There was a mindfulness activity, an ancestor grid, and two other physical games. Despite the fun, there wasn’t enough time for the class to interact with each network and bond organically. Students scrambled to find someone to sit with people they’d known before this event during the lunch break. 

Many in the freshman class were a little disappointed by the rigid schedule of the retreat. 

Heavily based on discussion, the day felt long, and the hard-hitting topics made the new students feel awkward and afraid to speak up. The students felt intimidated by the grave issues. It caused some students to be more closed off because they were speaking about these hard-hitting issues with people they barely knew in an environment where they thought they would be able to make friends. 

A few things that could’ve made the freshman retreat more engaging and enjoyable would have been giving groups a team name and having them compete against each other during the retreat or having more physical activities. The retreat could have been a little more relaxed, less discussion-based, and somewhere off-campus in a controlled environment outdoors like a rented park space. 

The retreat is a different experience for each class who is able to have it. This year the freshman were grateful to have a freshman retreat because they hadn’t expected to have one at all. It had to be a different experience due to the need for social distancing ad protecting the students, and that was one of the aspects of the retreat that were dealt with really well. There was always enough space for everyone to remain a safe distance apart. They continued to execute their activities, and the masking policy was strongly upheld by students and facilitators alike.

The senior retreat is something new that just began this year with the Class of 2021, which is also the class that the freshman retreat began with. Initially, the seniors were supposed to go to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and hang out together in a more relaxed way. Covid shut that plan down, but the situation was handled with grace. In order to continue the retreat, it was shortened to a single day and held in the formal gardens just like the freshman retreat.

The activities multiple activities: one where students shared and retold the stories of others with respect and care, another where they reflected on themselves and how far they’ve come since senior year, writing out their worries and burn them in a fire pit to relieve stress, an activity where they wrote a secret about themselves on a notecard and it’s shared anonymously, an activity where they discussed their legacy and left their plans for the future on the wall of the students center, and a more fun activity where they played a couple of athletic games with Mr. Mpofu. The activities all had their ups and downs and watching it’s no surprise that seniors favored the more physical activities where the larger goal was to have fun.

A retreat is supposed to be a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax, but this retreat felt more like a workshop rather than a place for relaxation, especially for seniors who have the most to worry about in regards to their futures. The day was packed with activities that would normally pump everyone up, but the day being filled only fueled the stress of seniors looking for time to finish college applications and catch up on work.

Senior Brian Figueroa says, “Although the retreat did take up a valuable[workday] for the seniors during a busy time. It was a good way to bring the class together.”

The Retreat activity list was filled with discussions that were meant to teach lessons on how to be conducive citizens within society; however, these ideas have been circulating through the LFA curriculum since freshman year, and hearing the familiar advice and participating in discussions filled with things topics and ideas that have already been gone over before. Many of the ideas were fresh, but since it was similar to things that the class of 2021 had experienced in the past it felt recycled. It led to a class-wide lag in participation. 

“Although the day was a nice break from the regular academic schedule, it felt unproductive in the sense that I was not deeply engaged or challenged by the activities within the retreat.” said senior Tyler Watts.

The seniors as a collective wanted more of a break before heading into the stressful year ahead. They wanted something different from the usual topics, something we could really learn from and have fun doing it, not that the activities chosen were not necessarily bad. There were still some great discussions, valuable lessons learned, and many of the students had a great time.  

Even many of the more activities, including writing, reflection, listening, and watching videos or listening to detailed informational powerpoints. While it was a fun retreat with some experiences that were enjoyable,  it was not the most productive use of time during this time of year. Many of the seniors felt as if the retreat would’ve served us better in the second semester when there was less stress in the air. It was a good way to bring the class together with good intentions, but it came at a bad time, ultimately limiting its value.