Sargent Center Retreat

Unplugged and Out of Doors, Students Make new Connections

By: Darin Leedberg

It happens every two years….as students emerge from the bus and work as a team to unload their cargo, the nervous excitement is palpable in the Sargent Center meadow. They stand in a peaceful space, where the only sounds are those of nature around them and their classmates that they will soon get to know a lot better. So many questions swim around in their minds: What if I can’t sleep? What will the food be like? Will the Sargent Center staff be nice to me?

Students set out on this journey having had different levels of experience being “on their own” away from family. Some students are experienced veterans in the wilderness, and some are away from home for the first time. Regardless, they are about to have the time of their young lives.

With nothing more than a map and each other… students are able to experience the world around them as it truly exists.

The first day starts slowly. First they are introduced to the Sargent Center and their camp counselors at the “beginning,” which is the name of the room where they congregate. Before they know it, they are having lunch and then off to explore the trails. With nothing more than a map and each other, without the distractions from their phones or ipods to take away from the sights and sounds, students are able to experience the world around them as it truly exists.

SD Team Sargent 2014_small_square

After dinner that evening, students take a night walk in the woods, and their adventure is filled with discovery. They see their instructors use citric acid as a mini fireworks show, and see how wintergreen mints spark in their mouths when chewed. They feel what it is like to be vulnerable in the dark, and learn that the rods and cones in their eyes will aid in their defense.

The second day is filled with adventure and triumph. At some point, they will challenge themselves to traverse the high ropes course. The desire to commit to successfully navigating the ropes course and sliding down the zip in victory is outweighed time and time again by their fear of heights. They learn to work as a team with their classmates on the ground helping them through, whether it is through words of encouragement or actually physically assisting them. “I found that I am braver than I thought,” writes one student, and “I definitely found out things about myself that I never knew existed,” writes another.

“I found that I am braver than I thought”

Also on the second day, students experience the other challenge of climbing the “Climb Tower,” which is a three-sided vertical tower which has rock climbing pegs up the sides, or they climb up the “Dangle Quad” which is a series of horizontal beams strung together with ropes. Again, they work together and assist in belaying their classmates throughout the challenges. One student comments “I was able to gain more confidence…I made it to the top of …the climb tower.”

At the end of the exhilarating day, students gather for a night of fun around the campfire. In preparation, they compose and then perform a skit with their groups at the campfire before they retire for the night.

The final day at Sargent Center features some more hiking, as well as some wilderness survival skills. They are excited to share tea that they make from pine needles and wintergreen that they¬†forage on their hike. After lunch, they return to the “beginning,” where the trip comes to a close. Here they share their experiences and adventures with the whole group. Although exhausted, it’s amazing to see the excitement on their faces as they chronicle their adventure. They describe personal triumphs on the ropes course as well as bonds that are created with classmates they may or may not have ever even talked to. It all comes full circle as they return to the meadow to again work as a team, but this time the luggage is put back on the bus.¬†