Freshman and Senior Retreats: Strengthening Connections

Retreats are integral components of the Park Scholarships experience. At the start of each of the freshman and senior years, they afford scholars the perspective to reflect on where they’ve been and make preparations for the next steps. Location plays a key role: the natural beauty of each retreat’s setting creates a space for contemplation and relationship-building without the distractions of everyday campus life.

The Class of 2023’s Freshman Retreat was held August 14-16 in Black Mountain, N.C. The scholars became acquainted with one another, their Park Scholar facilitators, faculty, and staff through a series of team-building activities. Park Faculty Scholars Cyndi Edgington and Kanton Reynolds integrated Dare to Lead by Brené Brown to inform discussions during the Class of 2023’s Freshman Retreat and the students’ yearlong seminar.

Ten juniors and seniors served as facilitators for the Class of 2023 Freshman Retreat. They led icebreakers, answered questions, and took part in a high ropes course and low ropes team-building activities alongside the freshmen. Most significantly, they helped the new Park Scholars translate lessons learned throughout the retreat into methods for managing the challenges they could expect to encounter during their first year in college.

The Class of 2020 traveled to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park from August 29-September 2 for the Senior Retreat. Park faculty, staff, and alumni led the scholars through discussions and activities designed to address the past, present, and future. The Senior Retreat is a time for scholars to reconnect as a class and reflect on their past three years at NC State and, through small and large group discussions, they also consider how they will continue to cultivate their relationships with one another and with the Park Scholarships program in the years ahead.

This year, five Park alumni – Ben Coulter ’02, Leah Haile ’13, Heidi Klumpe ’13, AJ Martin ’12, and Evan Smith ’17 – joined the Class of 2020 for their Senior Retreat. The seniors bonded and networked with these alumni during structured panel sessions as well as informally, while whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and hiking.