At the beginning of the school year, the entire freshman class attends an off-campus retreat with administrators, advisors and a group of seniors, who help welcome the 9th grade into the Upper School. In the years since this tradition began, we have asked both seniors and freshmen to share the impact of this experience. This fall, three of the freshman who contributed to this piece from 2012, "Getting into the Swing," attended the retreat as senior leaders. Instead of getting into the trust swing as freshmen, they were pulling it as seniors. We asked them to reflect on their return to Camp Maranatha.
"Stepping off the yellow school buses, I walked to Camp Maranatha's pavilion surrounded by chattering freshmen," writes senior Mariam Hassoun. "A wave of déjà-vu overwhelmed me as I remembered my own freshmen retreat experience three short years earlier. I understood exactly what these new students were feeling as they entered a new chapter in their education, a mixture of nervousness and excitement. The freshman retreat, led by a group of senior leaders, is a Randolph tradition. Rather than experiencing the horrors of a 'Freshman Friday,' freshmen and seniors spend a day with their advisory groups participating in a wide range of team-building activities.
"As leaders of Mrs. Reyes' advisory, Jackson Samples and I watched the group progress from clamoring bunch of people falling off the log to an efficient team working to boost each other over a ten-foot wall. They fought competitively when playing King of the Hill on the iceberg floating in the lake, but cooperated to ensure everyone made it across the pavilion in Alligator Crossing.
"In the span of one day, they become an advisory group rather than a random collection of individuals. As they continue to grow and learn at the Upper School, they'll continue to build on the foundation they laid down at the freshman retreat. Good luck to all the freshman; here's to a great high school experience at Randolph!"
Mariam Hassoun has attended Randolph School since the 3rd grade. "I preside as chair of Huntsville's Red Cross Youth Committee, and as the president of the Honor Council and Youth Leadership Council at Randolph. I enjoy cold weather, light jogs, and getting ice cream with my friends."
"Freshman year I said the retreat helped me get to bond with my new classmates," says senior Charlie Wright. "Three years later, I find that it helped me make similar connections with new peers, this time just with those much younger than me. By serving a role more like an older brother or peer than of a disciplinary authority figure—that request having been denied by Mr. Treadwell—going on the trip as a senior not only provided the opportunity to guide and advise, but also to laugh and fraternize with the freshmen."
"Between Kindergarten Buddy activities, senior class events and college admissions, senior year is an exciting time," says Saahil Katyal. "However, seniors have the added responsibility of setting the tone of the school year for the entire Upper School. At the beginning of this school year, I had the opportunity to lead a group of 12 freshmen at the annual 9th Grade Retreat. This is an important time for 9th graders to ease into high school via an assortment of fun outdoor and team-building activities. The senior leaders did a great job of welcoming the new faces to the Upper School, guiding them through the various activities, giving advice about high school, and sharing stories.
"When asked about the importance of having senior leaders on the retreat, freshman Sachin Katyal stated, 'It really created a bond between the freshmen and seniors. I didn’t really know any of the seniors in my group very well prior to the retreat. Now, I feel that if I have any trouble at school, I can go to them for advice or help.'
"At the end of the day, the freshman assembled in the central pavilion and listened to the seniors as they shared embarrassing stories from their high school years. We reinforced the idea that Mr. Treadwell had been stressing throughout the day. High school is a 'marathon' and there will be a fair share of successes and failures. We reminded the freshmen that it is important to remember to laugh at yourself along the way and try enjoy every step of the race."
When Saahil Katyal '16 wrote this he was Senior Class President, Director of Operations for the Youth Leadership Council, and a member of the varsity soccer and basketball teams. Saahil attended Randolph from 4th-12th grade. He is a sophomore at Princeton University.
Photos by Patricia Kuhn and Brent Bell.