Friday, September 3, 2010

A Report from the 2010 Junior-Senior Retreat

Seventy-four Gaston Day Juniors and Seniors travelled in school buses and rented vans to the Episcopal Conference Center at Valle Crucis (outside Boone) for the annual Junior-Senior Retreat on Sunday. As for many years, I drove one of the buses and was a chaperone along with Tim Tinnesz (Head of Middle & Upper Schools), Sarah Ince (Director of College Placement), and Holly Mason (Theatre Instructor & Senior Homeroom Advisor). The purpose of the retreat is to prepare students for the college admissions process and also to have fun. We did both. 

We have been going to Valle Crucis now for at least eight or nine years. So I know the director and the place well--they are becoming old friends. Several things struck me again during our visit. First of all, how much larger the Upper School at Gaston Day has become. Some eight or nine years ago, one of my first Junior-Senior Retreats at Valle Crucis had eleven seniors and twenty-two juniors. The difference in energy and decibels between thirty-three and seventy-four young adults is unmistakable. All those kids made me realize how far we have come as a school.

A second observation: the college admissions process really is complicated and difficult. In 1974, when I applied to University of Virginia, Wake Forest, and the University of North Carolina, nobody at Gaston Day helped me. I was on my own. Those days are over. Our students really do need Mrs. Ince's assistance, and they are so fortunate to be at an independent school like Gaston Day where the faculty and college counselor guide them through such an arduous and important process. I simply don't know how students do it at a large school with limited counseling resources.

Another thing that I witnessed at Valle Crucis is just how great it is to be a young adult. We built a bonfire at 10 pm on Sunday night and about half the kids were doing an Indian dance around it. Forty young people hooping, hollering, and having the time of their lives!! The others were playing ping pong or running around with chums. How can you watch that boisterous celebration and not be happy to work at a place like Gaston Day?!! I had to remind myself of that later when the senior boys were up all night having water fights and generally doing what senior boys do when they are in a dormitory setting with each other. Yes, I was very tired on Monday morning.

But most of all, I was gratified to be part of a wonderful educational and social experience for our kids. The Junior-Senior Retreat requires considerable forethought and planning. Kudos to Mr.Tinnesz, Mrs. Ince and all their assistants back at school for staging such a successful event. Our juniors and seniors are on their way to great colleges and universities, and we are beside them all the way.