Our RISE program has a couple of key events that help shape both the students who are in the program and, to some extent, shape the direction of the program itself. The RISE Weekend Retreat is one such event. There are now three classes of RISE students: those who began RISE in 2014 (RISE14), those who began in 2015 (RISE15), and those who are hoping to begin this coming school year, RISE16. In all, we took 75 Chester students with us to NorthBay Adventure Camp in North East, MD for a weekend of activities, good discussions and fun!
We met at the Chester Charter School for the Arts, boarded the buses and we were off! When we arrived, we all met in the dinning hall for pizza and divided up into cabins. Once we had a few minutes to unpack, we headed back to the dining hall for some small group discussions. This was especially great for our RISE16 kids, as many of them don’t know each other well yet. The night ended with some free time in Horseshoe Point (a game room/large sitting room) or in the gym playing Gaga and Basketball.
It was still a little rainy first thing in the morning, but to help us all wake up, the group either took a little hike, did yoga in the gym or walked along the beach. That got everyone ready for breakfast, served by our awesome Kitchen Crew volunteers. After breakfast, we split into the three classes. The RISE14 class got to go on the Ropes Course and play the Amazing Race – a fun series of activities that help build trust and teamwork. The RISE15 and RISE16 group alternated between a scavenger hunt that lead them all around NorthBay camp, and the Amazing Race. It was really fun watching the kids come together to solve clues and figure out different challenges!
That afternoon, after lunch, the three classes again split up and rotated between the Rock Climbing Wall & Three-Man Adventure Swing, kayaking, and meeting as a class with the RISE leaders. While the first two activities speak for themselves as to how much the kids enjoyed them (and check out more pictures below!), the class meetings were really a special time.
RISE14, undoubtedly out tightest knit group, came even closer together. They were able to offer feedback about this past year of RISE and talk about where they’d like the program to go. They also voiced their desire for the younger two classes to come together and really get all they can out of RISE. RISE15 had a great discussion about coming out of their shells, and were urged to unify, instead of remain in their own little groups of friend. The RISE16 kids were able to present their Identity Boxes to the group. We charged all of them at the Summit back in April to come with a shoebox that explained who they were. On the outside, they were to put pictures/words that they were comfortable with everyone knowing about them. On the inside, we wanted them to tell us a little about who they are under the surface – somethings that are not obvious on the “outside.” Boy did they deliver!! The boxes and stories that went into each picture and item placed in the box were incredible. We’re really excited to see this new class excel in RISE!
After dinner, everyone headed to the gym for some fun large group games before walking down to the beach for a sunset bonfire, dancing and marshmallow roasting. There was even a special time of giving thanks to Mrs. Hicks. Unbeknownst to any of the leaders on the trip, the RISE14 kids took it upon themselves to write a note of appreciation to her for all she’s given to them and for how much she believes in them. It was so perfect for the eve of Mother’s day and there wasn’t a dry eye on the beach!!
Sunday morning began with the option of yoga on the beach or another beach hike. Then we, sadly, had to pack and clean our cabins before our next hike. We were blessed with a beautiful morning so we hiked to the outdoor amphitheater for a time of worship. Since it was Mother’s Day, once worship concluded everyone held hands and went around and either prayed (aloud or to themselves) for their moms and/or just offered thanks for their moms. It was another touching moment to hear the hearts of these kids who love those who love them!
We hiked back to the dining hall for one final meal together, then boarded the buses and headed home to Chester. This weekend would not have been as special as it was if it were not for all of our Cabin Small Group Leaders! They were Julianna Ardolina, Sean Edwards, Gretchen Flack, Karen Hicks, Eileen Hughes, Bill Jackson, Anthony Laguna, Joe Noon, Marvin Payne, Ashley Rundell, Dimitri Horvat, Matt Swire, Ta’Quan Taylor, Megan Thompson and Evony Wilcox. We also had the privilege of having paramedic Mike Borrello join us. Thank you!! Our awesome Kitchen Crew was comprised of Jim & Marie Evans, Kay & Gary McWilliams and Michael & Janet Battaglia.
We are all truly looking forward to RISE Camp this coming August!
Chester Charter School for the Arts
Chester County Food Bank
Keisha Smith, Mary and Steve Rogers