The first annual Interfaith High School Storytelling Retreat, Wholly Heroes, was fun and relational. Twelve students representing a variety of faith traditions met with six adults to craft their individual stories and share them with one another around a campfire. However, a lot of fun happened in between the crafting and sharing.
First, we ate! Then, jumped into some learning. How do we listen to one another? What is a story? Why is it important? Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? Why is it important to craft our stories and share them? Okay, too much thinking. So, then we played some games… hilariously fun games. We also ended the night watching one of the greatest movies in history, Goonies. Of course, we didn’t just watch the movie. We shared way too many snacks around the room. And when the movie was over we still had way too many snacks!!! But, they came in handy the next day!
That next day we started with, you guessed it, more eatingJ After a delicious breakfast together we jumped back into some learning. We picked up where we left off the night before and began to really fine-tune our stories. And of course we played more games. We also climbed a pole and jumped off. WHAT?!
Yes, you read that right. We climbed up this incredibly tall wooden pole and then jumped off. Well, not all at once. Each individual had his or her turn. After the jumper mounted up with the necessary protective gear, he or she was asked a few questions:
What is your goal?
What are you jumping away from?
What are you jumping towards?
How can your friends help you?
After the jumper answered those four questions, he or she climbed to the top and jumped off. It looked pretty easy and pretty safe, but let us tell you, when you are up there on the top, you panic! Well, we did at least. Then, guess what we did… jumped off!! It was great. Students learned to trust one another and to tackle their challenges head on.
Before we concluded with more eating and sitting around the campfire telling stories, we have to take a moment to talk about the epic star wars battle. We played Star Wars Dodge Ball and it was the most fun some of us have ever had! First of all everyone was pretty excited to play and no one got hurtJ Second, we had Star Wars music paying during the entire game. Finally, what made this version of dodge ball extra fun is that each team had a Jedi who could go around and grant people back into the game. However, if the ball hit the Jedi then that team was finished! It was so much fun.
Okay, now to more eating and the final storytelling session. We found our stash of s’more ingredients and set off for the fire. It was cold so the fire was very necessary. ‘Round the fire with s’mores, each student told their story. After each story someone or two or three or more would respond by saying “Thank you for sharing your story. The part of your story I appreciated was _____.” During the stories came a few tears as students opened up and shared vulnerable aspects of their lives. Hugs pursued and our time together came to a loving end.
We ate. We played. We shared. We listened. And we grew closer to one another as a result.
Hats off to our high school leaders who facilitated the retreat. We appreciate your dedication and leadership. And we enjoy your company.
Hope to see you all again next year… and at our next event!
PS- Joey Taylor is on our Kids4Peace board. He also heads up BeSpoken Live on Campus which is a storytelling, story-listening, and mindfulness program designed to create a safe space for high school students to find their voice together. It is awesome and we fully support it and are thankful we had the opportunity to partner with Joey and BeSpoken for our first annual Interfaith Retreat!
Our Next Core Youth Leadership gathering is going to be a little different. The kids have been talking and learning and reflecting on gun violence particularly mass shootings. That’s not a very easy subject. It can definitely get you down. So, as the calendar year winds down to an end we decided to do something really fun and life-giving for our final meeting of the year. We are going to celebrate life together over our favorite snacks! It is going to be a snack potluck where we talk about a moment in our lives that brought about some extreme joy or happiness. We are going to combat all the violence with an afternoon of goodness and positivity.
If you know any students, please invited them (and tell them to bring their favorite snack).
The Celebrate Life Snack Potluck
@ the J.C.C. (8485 Ridge Ave, Cincinnati, OH)
Sunday, December 1st from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
*The flyer states high school students are invited. Middle school students who have participated in Kids4Peace programs are also invited to participate.