Senior retreat brings class together


Dream catcher: Media senior Ricky Esquival (right) explains his dream of becoming a soccer player during an activity led by Leadership Coordinator Nidya Baez during the senior retreat on Nov. 3.

Media Academy seniors got to get away from school, stress and studies a block away from campus for one day.

English teacher Candice Valenzuela planned the senior retreat at the Eastlake YMCA on Nov. 3.

History teacher Elizabeth Siarny, Leadership Coordinator Nidya Baez, Mills Education Talent Search adviser Barbie Penn and Tiger Clinic health educator Katie Riemer also helped to facilitate the event.

“The retreat was important to provide a space for seniors to come together as one,” said Valenzuela. “Sometimes the graduation stage is the only time that all the seniors are in the same place at the same time. I don’t think that’s right.”

The YMCA was economical and available to the seniors of Media Academy, explained Valenzuela. She added that the Y was “very gracious” to let them use their space. In fact, the space Media seniors used for their retreat was donated by the Y.

Valenzuela wanted the retreat to happen soon, which is one of the reasons why it was held at the YMCA. If the seniors were to fundraise the event themselves, it would have taken much longer.

“All we needed was an open space with enough room for the activities,” said Valenzuela. “I was thankful to the Y for letting us use their facility.”

Some students complained and were skeptical about having their senior retreat at the YMCA, it didn’t affect anything or anyone, according to senior Sabrina Lee.

One of Lee’s classmates, Leland Moore, said he was “really shocked” about the location of the retreat.

“I expected to go to a park or something at least,” Moore said.

Ysaira Torres agreed the location of the retreat was very close to the school but added that “the location didn’t matter, who attended was what was more important.”

Students got the chance to interact and get their energy going by first participating in ice breakers.

The first ice breaker was called “Am I.” The facilitators walked around the room putting Post-Its on the seniors’ backs of random characters. The seniors had to go around and ask other seniors yes or no questions regarding the character on their back.

“The game was fun because everyone was into it,” said Linda Poeng. “It was fun to watch students struggle to find out who they were.”

Afterwards, the students went into the gym to play their first team-building game called Dream Catcher.

The students were split up into five teams and spread throughout the gym. They were told to sit in a circle and write a “dream” on an index card. They were to place the index card with the dream written on it at the tip of their head as they laid outside of the circle.

After every index card was placed outside of the circle, it was the students’ job to physically obtain their “dream”without touching the outside of the circle from the inside.

“It wasn’t really that hard, it was just frustrating,” said Matthew Phork. “All we had to do was create a base on our feet and hold onto each other, creating a chain like friendship.”

After the Dream Catcher activity, everyone went back into the sitting room where students talked about what stressed them out about being a senior, the difference between surviving their senior year stress and coping with it.

“Talking about the stress did kinda help me out, but I felt that we didn’t need to talk about it because the retreat was so we can get away from it,” said Luis Arroyo.

Another team building activity was similar to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. It was called “Giants, Wizards and Elves.”The giants beat the wizards, wizards beat the elves, and the elves beat the giants.

The two teams had to separately choose which character would be their weapon, in hopes to beat the opposing team.The losing team had to run back to their “base” in order to not get “captured” by the team that won the round. When a student was tagged while running to “base,” they had to switch teams.

“My team’s name was Team Sparta,” said Martreca West. “We did awesome.”

The last activity the students were involved in was called the “Unity Circle.”

As the students stood in a circle with their arms linked to each others’, Valenzuela periodically announced statements. Students were to step into the circle along with the other students who stepped in and create another circle within the bigger one.

The purpose of the activity was to build a stronger bond between the students. According to Valenzuela, “We can reach our goals more effectively if we work together.”