Senior Retreat Climbs to New Heights

Would you ever climb a forty foot pole, then jump off the edge with all faith that your classmates will bring you safely to the ground?

Even though these other seniors have been classmates for a few years, spending eight hours a day together, the idea of trusting 54 classmates to save my bacon, to have my back, catch me as I jumped off the edge, was hard to imagine. Would RJ really catch Josh or would he be chatting with another classmate about the newest video game?

Before the Senior Retreat we were just classmates: students who we sat next to in class but never really had a conversation with. But something magical happened during the annual retreat. More than once we bonded through either games or talk. These moments together strengthened our class as a whole.

The Senior Retreat, held each year at DaySprings Conference Center, is one of the most powerful team-building events at ODA. In fact, the underlying purpose is to build class unity and develop leadership in our last year together on campus.

Each event at the retreat is objected and designed specifically to enhance relationships in the senior class and help students learn how to function as one team.

The Leap of Faith is exactly as it sounds. You climb a thirty foot pole, only to be strapped to a harness that is held by your classmates on the other end. Once you reach the top, the guide tells you to take in the amazing, yet terrifying, view, then jump towards a trapeze bar.

Now here comes the question: do you trust your classmates to bring you safely to the ground? Many were skeptical about the jump and didn’t participate and only a few have ever achieved the capture of the bar. This year, you can congratulate David Grain ’14 and Max Provost ’14 for successfully seizing the bar.

David Grain reflects that “this was a great achievement. YEAH.”

2013 graduate Maggie Winkler recalls that she “almost cried” while standing at the top, but afterwards she was fine.

Now take one step further, or ten feet higher: climb a forty foot course. But don’t be intimidated. There is more than a pole to guide you to the top; you can either climb a series of tires, or a ladder.

Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a zip-line down to the bottom. But it is up to your teammates to assist you with the extension of the rope. But what a spectacular and thrilling ride the zip-line was–completely and utterly worth the effort.

The last challenge is all about connection and teamwork, so find your best friend and get ready to partner up. Your task is to climb a separated ladder with only each other and a harness. Leave the conversation behind, and think all about strategy and your goal to the top. If you succeed, you are to single-handedly walk across a tight rope and later a log (still with a harness).

Owing to the fact that the elements were difficult, students were extremely encouraging in watching their fellow classmates meet each challenge.

Colby Elliott ’14 said, “it was great seeing the comradery during the ropes course. Everyone was cheering each other on.”

Even Mr. Seldis was impressed. During Monday assembly, he said that DaySprings noted that this was the best senior class yet; They were taken aback by our enthusiasm and encouragement for whoever was climbing the courses.

However, none of this could have been remotely possible if we hadn’t bonded so greatly the night prior. Of course, as in every sleepover, no one sleeps. Both cabins stayed up till the wee hours of the morning; the girls talked, and the guys experienced a full on war.

As a surprise, Mr. and Mrs. Karp brought in the Southeastern Guide Dog that was given to the seniors by the juniors. When playtime was over, they decided on three possible names for the dog: Thora, Roo, and Nala. The names will be given to the Southeastern Guide Dogs Foundation who will then finalize the name.

After a struggling game of Minefield, and the “Best Friends Game Show,” the seniors retired to their respective cabins.

Despite all that had occurred the following day, Maria-Francesca Massaro ’14 said, “bonding with my cabin mates was my favorite part of the entire trip.”

That being so, Senior Retreat creates excitement for everyone. Even if you’re not too fond about the ropes course and the outdoors, Senior Retreat is a great way to launch students’ last year at Out-of-Door Academy.