by Joanne Yi
Sixth grade students went on their annual UNITE retreat last week in preparation for the transition from King’s Elementary to King’s Junior High. The purpose of the retreat, as stated by sixth grade teacher Katrina Peppler, is to provide an opportunity for students to strengthen their teamwork, relationships and familiarity with one another and to head into the Junior High with firm relationships with their peers and God. While the retreat gave the students a chance to relax, have fun and enjoy the beautiful weather, they were also able to spend quality time with Junior High faculty through intimate talks with Junior High Bible teacher Mr. Croutworst, Junior High Counselor Mrs. Folkins, and Junior High Principal Mrs. Halkett.
The three Junior High faculty members highlighted important messages about finding identity and value in a community. Principal Halkett’s message, “I am beloved, I can do hard things & I got your back,” spoke of knowing who each student is in Christ and helping one another as they grow and learn together. Mr. Croutworst spoke about “The Team.” He showed two impactful videos of student athletes who had refused to let anything stand in their way while overcoming obstacles and challenges, and he implored students to take consider doing the same in their lives. He also emphasized what it means to be on a “team” where every member plays a crucial role, regardless of the outcome or performance. Whether you’re a member of a sports team or a member of God’s team, you have a role on that team that only you can fulfill.
Students also received wise words from Mrs. Folkins on the importance of being both a leader and a team member. Mrs. Folkins discussed embodying the 8 Essentials of the CharacterStrong program on a daily basis as students learn to become leaders in their community. Those character essentials include kindness, patience, honesty, humility, respect, selflessness, forgiveness, and commitment.
When their time was not spent familiarizing themselves with the Junior High faculty, students were able to focus on their relationships with one another through a variety of fun activities ranging from sports, cabin discussions, building games and more. The retreat helped students reach out of their circles and form meaningful relationships with others. Sixth grader Savannah Peppler recalls, “I loved being able to make relationships with people who I don’t hang out with as much. We had to stay with our group, and although it was tougher at first to hang out with only my group, I found myself becoming great friends with them.” The fun, relational environment the retreat fostered helped the students open up to one another in ways they couldn’t in the classroom. Student Jackson Zentler found the retreat eye-opening, as he was able to see people differently outside of school where they were not always serious and focused. From the retreat, Jackson feels much more confident and comfortable entering Junior High, knowing that he has expanded his network of friends and formed new relationships with a diverse group of students.