The annual event that is Freshman Retreat is a timeless Wesleyan Tradition performed every year that brings students closer together with their peers, teachers and most of all, God. It is an opportunity for the Wesleyan freshman class to meet new people, create new bonds and prepare for the upcoming school year in dynamic fashion. Freshman Retreat is started with the intense excitement and energy on the morning of Aug. 9, when the Staff and Students arrived on campus to welcome the freshman and hype them up for an amazing weekend full of fun, food and Jesus.
From the moment the students and staff were loaded on the bus, the enthusiasm was evident. The 90-minute journey to this year’s destination was filled with silly games, beautiful karaoke and meaningful conversations and connections. The time flew by and before they knew it, they had arrived at this year’s retreat destination: Sharp Top Cove. Upon arriving at Sharp Top, the students and staff were flooded with fun team building activities and games. Some of the activities include basketball, beach volleyball, human pyramid building, swimming, zip lining and the messiest of all: shaving cream wars. So many activities made so many favorite moments and memories being created. Senior Chris O’Sullivan said, “My favorite memory was getting to know the freshmen in my peer group and having fun with them.”
With all the activities to participate in, it is safe to say that a lot of energy was expelled on the part of the participants. When a lot of energy goes out, that’s when they need a lot of fuel, more specifically food, to go in. And the food did not disappoint. It was provided by the incredible group of 30 seniors that were on the Work Crew. Led by Mrs. Engsberg, Mrs. Morris, Ms. Noble and Mrs. Sessions, the work crew worked tirelessly to cook, serve and provide unrivaled enthusiasm to mealtime. From jerseys to princess dresses, the work crew dressed up in fantastic costumes, giving the students yet another moment of laughter, fulfillment and gratitude. They were a valued and key component in the success of the retreat, for which every staff member and student were grateful.
The weekend only got better from there. On both Friday and Saturday, the students were treated to two hilarious nights of entertainment. The first night was focused on the peer groups and team competition. Peer groups were tasked with randomly picking a song out of a hat. Songs ranged from “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Calling the song list diverse would be an understatement. Upon picking the songs, the groups were given 10 minutes to create a choreographed set to perform in front the entire grade.
The performances were amazing. In fact, they were so amazing that even the teachers got involved within the magic by performing their own rendition of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, climaxing with a wonderful solo by 9th grade boys grade chair Chris Paroli. Saturday was even better. Students were had the opportunity to see their Peer Leaders and teachers perform skits and dance battles.
Although the activities, food and entertainment were great, the best part of Freshman retreat was the time everyone got spend with Jesus. In between activities and during the evening, the group would pack into the club room to worship and hear an incredible devotion. The speaker for this year was none other than Glenn Campbell, who has been a core component of Freshman Retreat for over a decade.
When Mr. Campbell speaks, lives are changed. He challenged everyone’s perspective on life and captivated the room by convincing them that no matter how crazy high school gets, their relationship with Jesus is the only thing that truly matters. After the devotional, students would have cabin time in small groups where they discussed what they had heard and how it influenced them. Freshman Lawson Jones said, “I felt Jesus’ presence there and it was the first time I trusted Jesus.” Students were open and vulnerable about their lives and beliefs. This all culminated to the final day where everyone sat in a circle with a mic in the middle and everyone could go in the middle and confess their belief in Jesus. It was a beautiful way to cap off a beautiful trip.
The real question is what is the actual purpose of Freshmen Retreat? Is it all just for fun and kicks, or does it actually influence the students? The Freshman Retreat is essential. It allows students to enter into their first year confident and secure. Director of Christian Life, Greg Lisson, said, “We hope the retreat will be an opportunity to connect with each other and to connect with Jesus, and we hope by starting Freshman year with the retreat, students will see that nothing is more important to us than relationships.”
When asked about how the retreat made his transition easier, Jones said, “The retreat made me excited, but I am new this year and I had no idea how much fun it would be. I thought it was going to be alright, but it was 100 times better than I ever thought it would be. I wish we could have a retreat like that every year. It was the best retreat I have ever been on.”
Jones’s reaction directly reflects the impact that this retreat has had on the freshmen. Above all else, that is the purpose of this tradition.