I was lucky enough to be able to go on the Senior Retreat this year. I started as 10 of the girls' advisor last year, and followed them through to this, their senior year. I remember being a senior, and going on my senior retreat, and it was nothing compared to what the campus minister & advisors, and especially, the seniors have made of it. (Of course on my senior retreat, four or five kids got kicked out of our school because they were smoking pot.)
We started off when we got there with some small group games, like the trust fall (always a popular one!), pipeline, black magic (which has nothing to do with satan worship), and others. The seniors went in their small groups to each advisor who had a different game for them to play. Then we had two alumni speakers (who happened to be from my class), who spoke about life during and after college. The told the kids about the different paths they will have to choose from, and how the path they may want to choose, may not be the one that God wants them to take, but he has his way to showing them where to go.
After lunch, our principal spoke to us about her cancer, and how she trusted in God to get her though it. Then we had them back in their small groups on a scavenger hunt to find pieces of a quote about the past, present, or future. The kids ran (full sprint, sweat everywhere) from clue to clue. (My group won, of course, but one of the other advisors claims that his won... it was a close call.) Next, we had put together a baby picture game. We hung up a baby picture of each of the seniors around the room with numbers on them. The seniors then went around and had to guess who each senior was (that night, the advisors corrected them, and gave the winning senior a $10 gift card).
After that, the seniors had some free time to hang out with their friends, and relax. Several went into the water to swim or canoe, while others played volleyball, football, or soccer. One couple in the senior class, had broken up two days before the retreat. I saw several of the guys looking out for their buddy, and making sure he was having fun, and several of the girls hugging, and making their girlfriend smile. It was so warming to see them caring for each other!
Once their free time was over, we had dinner, the seniors had a chance to write notes to each other in booklets. It works like yearbook signing, but it is so much more heartfelt. Then our dean of students talked to us. He spoke about his struggles with God and forgiving his father. I think the seniors were stunned at his ability to forgive, even if it did take a while. I saw a couple kids come up at the end and give him a hug, they were very moved, and it really set the stage for the next event of the evening... the bonfire. This tradition started at my senior retreat, but has grown into something much more amazing than I would have imagined it would ever be.
We start by saying an evening prayer about light, then one by one, each senior takes a candel, and lights it. They walk down a path, lite by candels, to the bonfire where they sit and wait for the rest of their class. We asked them to be completely silent, and they were, other than the sounds of a couple people's tears. Once all the seniors were down at the fire, each one had the opportunity to stand up, and saw a few words, then throw their candel into the fire. The things these seniors said were very open and moving. Some asked for their friends' forgiveness, others thanked everyone for welcoming them into the class, or told the class how much they loved each one of them. Some stood up and talked about their struggles and how much it meant to them to know that they could go to anyone in the class to talk to. Some of the things that came out of these senior's mouths almost brought tears to my eyes. I was amazed at the fine young ladies and gentlemen that we helped them grow into.
The next morning after breakfast, the seniors had one last chance to write notes to their classmates. Then we handed out their booklets and enevelopes with letters from their parents and a teacher. They were able to go to any place around the grounds of the retreat center and read all of their notes. We, as staff, didn't read any of these, but watching the seniors come back after reading their notes, you could tell they were moved by what their parents, classmates, and teachers had to say to them.
Shortly after, we packed up the bus, and headed back to school, where the seniors had vowed to make it the best year of high school.