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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Faas

Leadership retreat sends students into the woods

By: Natalie Faas, Contributor

As a senior, it is sometimes hard not to feel old and washed up. I think that it is difficult to track our contributions to the campus that we have made over our three and a half years at Canisius. This year I attended the fall leadership retreat — run by Canisius’s Student Engagement Leadership Development office — with this thought at the front of my brain. I was chosen to be a team leader, with the role of helping students on their first leadership retreat have the best experience possible.

With that, I got to thinking about how I could make this a meaningful and fun experience for my group without acting like the grandma Griff that I really am. Little did I know that when we got on the bus to Beaver Hollow, I would be embarking on yet another cannonball event in my life.

Without giving too much away about the retreat itself, let me tell you how the magic of this retreat has once again changed and inspired me. Two days is not a long time to get to know 30 people. It is safe to say that this was a goal I felt would be completely unachievable, but I was going to try my best.

Throughout the weekend’s 48 hours, I made it my mission to have meaningful conversations with each member of the retreat. I sat at a different table for every meal and found partners for activities that I had never spoken to before: I figured the best way to not feel “washed up” anymore was to connect with those that I felt I hadn’t yet impacted.

While we played basketball in the pool, I cheered for my past orientee Cecile. I had deep and meaningful conversations with Kenzie, Roz, Emma, Adrienne, Iyiana and Maddy during “girl talk sauna time.” I sat in the lodge and spoke with Dakari about journaling as we enjoyed the late night comfort of the fireplace, and I read my book alongside my longtime best friend Emma.

On the second evening during dinner, I decided to share my worries about my legacy at Canisius and my grief about pulling back from involvement. It was at this moment that I realized how close all of us attendees had grown together in just 26 hours. I felt supported, loved and motivated. One attendee Bri shared how I had taken her on multiple tours and was pivotal in her choice to attend Canisius. Adrienne shared how I had been her tour guide and OL, and now here I was as her group leader.

This retreat, while different from last year’s, was just as impactful on my life. Jason, Nikki and Ian put together thoughtful presentations that encouraged us to think about ourselves as leaders and community members outside of the context of Canisius. They gave us all a safe space to feel supported by our peers.

The last day, the rain let up and it was time to go out and explore the beautiful wooded grounds of Beaver Hollow. I led a group of people that come from completely different circles on campus. We laughed and ran around, at one point adopting a new rally cry of “HEYYYYY BEARRRRRR.” It was then time to say goodbye to this place that had once again healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed — this time I got back on the bus with 30 strong friends.

While I will never get to go back to Beaver Hollow, I highly suggest you apply when applications for spring retreat open up. Go and experience the magic of Beaver Hollow for yourself.

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