North Union freshmen had an eye-opener Friday, Sept. 6.
First of all, they didn't have school - or at least classes, anyway. But what they did do was spend an entire day learning the meaning of respect - for themselves, each other and their school.
Becky Kinnander, special ed coordinator at North Union High School, headed up a Respect Retreat for freshmen students. The retreat was paid for by a Safe and Supportive Schools grant, a four-year grant which is in its third year.
Kinnander said a common student concern was that they wanted to know each other and adults in the school better. So North Union brought in two facilitators from Youth Frontiers of Minneapolis, a nonprofit that's been holding school seminars since 1987. Also participating were six members of the North Union Supporting Players.
Sharing their experiences with the Respect Retreat were freshmen Peyton Busch, Kayla Farland, Angel Smith and Rachel Monson and Supporting Players Rebecca Boyer and Marshall Klingenberg.
Rachel said the retreat was filled with lots of dancing while Angel said the message certainly came through that it's important to show people respect.
"I just don't think they're aware," Peyton said of students.
Kinnander said she wanted to start the Respect Retreat with the freshman class. And she tried not to have friends participate with each other - something that would have defeated the purpose of the retreat.
Students learned to respect themselves, respect others and to stand up for respect.
Angel said it definitely helped to have seniors present as mentors, and Rebecca said it also helped that they the freshmen knew they could come to the seniors if they needed help. And while she may have thought it would have been boring, Angel didn't find it that way at all.
Rebecca said the retreat helped reinforce in her a lot of the things she's learned growing up, for example, how we shouldn't shallowly judge other people.
Kinnander said a big part of the retreat focused on how we can emphasize when a person does something right.
Marshall enjoyed the "campfire" time in the gym when people were encouraged to write out how they would help themselves or others and stand up and show respect. He said it was particularly impressive when people went to the center and took a microphone and said how they could respect themselves and others.
Rebecca agreed that her favorite part was the campfire. "I think it's (retreat) something we should try to get for the whole school," she said. "It was a lot of fun."
Kinnander said the "human chair" was a very engaging activity.
"For 54 kids to sit in the gym, that was pretty remarkable," she said.
Kinnander said she's looking at other dates to offer the same retreat to sophomores and juniors with seniors having a retreat at the end of the year.