By Madeleine Lee
The freshmen retreat is a beloved St. Mary's tradition that introduces the new freshmen into high school in an exciting way. Read more about the freshmen’s experience, and discover how much they bonded as a grade over the course of a mere two days.
On August 16, the freshmen started off their year at Victory Ranch for the annual freshman retreat: an important opportunity for the incoming ninth grade class to learn what life as an Upper School student entails and to grow closer with their grade while doing so.
Chloe Webster (9), who came to St. Mary’s in seventh grade, says “the retreat allowed me to hang out with people who I wouldn’t normally hang out with.” Chloe notes that a specific highlight of the retreat was the bonfire, where each girl wrote something down on a piece of paper that she did not want to bring with her to high school, symbolizing the “fresh start” high school offers.
When they were not bonding around camp fires, the freshmen participated in various team building activities, all with the purpose of forcing the grade to work together since none of the activities could be done alone. In nearly all the activities, the group was forced to interact and problem-solve with each other as they learned from the mistakes they made.
Student council president, Lucy Chancellor (12) and the entire Senior Leadership Team attended the freshman retreat to offer advice and comfort to the freshmen. After interacting with the girls throughout the week, Lucy says, “there seemed to be no more grudges and cliques from middle school; people were becoming friends with everyone.”
Lucy also says, “the trip helped the ninth graders realize that they must cherish the few years that they have left at St. Mary’s.” Consequently, when tasked to write letters to their senior selves, the freshmen were forced to consider the next four years in order to encourage them to learn to cherish the relationships in their grade.
Additionally, Victory Ranch is essential in welcoming the new girls to the St. Mary’s community. Lucy says that after the retreat “[the new girls] didn’t even seem like they were new.”
Ria Patel, a new student in the freshman class this year, says, “the retreat really helped integrate the new students into the freshman class,” as the freshmen did not choose their cabins or groups but were pushed to branch out and become comfortable with everyone in their class.
Although she was initially nervous to attend the retreat after only being at St. Mary’s for a day and a half, Ria says that, at the end of the three days, “the entire class was much more connected; everyone was more grateful for friends and the grade.”