Honors goes to woods

12th annual retreat bonds students

A group of 28 students and seven professors retreated to Camp Tuolumne Trails in Groveland Sept. 11-13 for a weekend filled with activities and s’mores around the campfire.

The Honors Program has hosted a retreat every September to encourage students and their teachers to connect with each other outside the classroom.

“I wanted the retreat to be early in the year so students would get a chance to get to know each other and establish a bond with the program,” said Honors Director Jennifer Saito.

Students and teachers left for Groveland after class Friday and arrived at the camp shortly after, which was enveloped in a haze from regional fires.

Following icebreaker activities and dinner, students sat down for about an hour for a presentation, including videos by representatives of the Tuolumne River Trust about the destructive Rim Fire in 2013 that burned right up to the edge of Camp Tuolumne Trails. The speakers also explained how the honors students could get involved with helping to bring the burned land back to life.

Then students went to the sports field for the annual stargazing event with professor Scott Cabral, however, the event turned into a light show because of the smoke blocking the sky. Students instead got to play with colorful lasers originally used to point to the stars.

Then everyone gathered around the campfire to eat s’mores and sing campfire songs. There were two students new to the Honors Retreat Program and also to s’mores.

Student Jacqueline Nares said that the highlight of her trip was “trying s’mores for the first time.”

On Saturday, the morning was filled with workshops by student Jake Teal about his recent as a volunteer in Africa. Professor Marie Arcidiacono also led an activity relative to the Birth Order Theory. Students played a game which put the theory to the test.

Afternoon activities included archery with professor Cindy McGrath and swimming at the pool.

The evening included a hayride through the hills followed by the annual Bad Poetry Contest in which top students compete to see who can write the worst poem.

“My favorite part of the retreat was the Bad Poetry Contest,” said Cabral. “There were so many good ones, I couldn’t decide who should win.”

The group traveled on Sunday to nearby Yosemite Valley to hike the Mist Trail to Vernal Fall.
“It was intense, but worth it,” said student Diana Cobian.

Saito’s attempts at getting honors students to bond appeared to have been a success.

“I felt anxious because I was going on a trip with nobody I knew,” student Guadalupe Mauricio said. “After the first day, I was already cool with everyone.”

Todd Snyder said he had a lot of fun, adding, “I got to know a bunch of people from school I haven’t met before.”

If you like the intellectual stimulation of learning, and these activities sound like fun, contact Jennifer Saito at (925) 473-7601 for more information about the Honors Program.