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Staff Editorial: Grade level bonding events prove unnecessary, expensive

October 12, 2017

Nothing brings people together more than a pity party.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder in a hot, crowded, uncomfortable set of bleachers or gym floor presents the perfect opportunity for this type of bonding.

Unfortunately, it seems this is one of the few ways in which the Sophomore Respect Retreat or Junior Unity Day are effective in their respective goal of bring HHS students together. Ultimately, these events prove to be expensive, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

Youth Frontiers, the organization that HHS hired to lead the most recent Sophomore Respect Retreat, charges $2,845 in the Twin Cities area for their services. That lofty price tag doesn’t account for renting the busses required to transport 600 students off campus, or the renting of three separate locations necessary to accommodate those numbers.

Inevitably, at every retreat day, there is a game or bonding activity that encourages physical interaction between students.  Hands on each other’s shoulders, backs, and even laps are common methods of bringing students closer together.

Intermixed with students you may have never interacted with before, touching can quickly become an uncomfortable situation. In the hallways and in the classrooms, the concept of personal space is instilled in us. Why, then, should it be completely disregarded under the guise of bringing people together?

Moreover, for students who are not as outgoing, it also puts them in an uncomfortable situation where they feel pressured to speak up, rather than interact naturally with their peers.

Youth Frontiers markets their Respect Retreat toward 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, while Keith Hawkins, Junior Unity Day guest speaker, offers a specialized program tailored to high school students. However, when actually present at these programs, they seem as though they were designed for a much younger audience.

Mr. Doug Bullinger, principal, agrees that some of the activities that take place at these events can be uncomfortable, but ultimately believes that it leads to productive conversation about real issues affecting the students.

“Some of the activities that [Youth Frontiers] have them in can be kind of goofy, but they do that on purpose just to kind of get people to loosen up a little bit, and eventual start to talk with each other on more eal subjects,” said Bullinger.

Students should feel comfortable communicating with their fellow classmates. At the high school level, they have already been provided the tools with which they need to be successful, and have adapted to the norms of a public school environment. If the goal is to instill values the administration sees as vital to being high schoolers, then we should be treated us as such.

With that being said, there is a plus side to HHS hosting these events. By giving upperclassmen the opportunity to step into a leadership role, they are given a sense of responsibility and will feel more confident with future leadership positions.

From the perspective of a student who experienced Junior Unity Day, the senior leaders made the experience feel much more comfortable less intimidating. It was easier to interact with students who were confident in their abilities and understood the pressures of high school.

“It’s a tool to help breed student culture, not to say that we’re trying to control anybody, by any means, but I think everybody wants to be respected,” said Bullinger. We want to be really clear and really overt that this is how we do it [here at HHS].”

However, this money and time could better be spent on activities that actually engage the students and that don’t force them to listen to, what closely resembles, rejected Ted Talks.

Instead, make all sporting events free for students. Encourage HHS to cheer on their peers, and more broadly their school. Work with student organizations to help plan, fund, and sponsor events that will draw willing participants.

Respect and Unity can not simply be taught in five hours, it is something that will grow and develop during our time at HHS. Trusting in this, and trusting in the student body will be fundamentally cheaper and more productive.


The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of the Editorial Board. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the administration, the student body, or the adviser. Viewpoints with a byline represent the view of the writer. The Royal Page operates as an open forum student publication, and student editors make editorial decisions regarding content.

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