Respect Retreat Empowers Junior Students


Over thirteen schools from across Wisconsin participated in the Junior Respect Retreat May 1 at Brookfield East High School. Brookfield Central was able to send 20 students who exemplify leadership and the Lancer Way as school representatives.

The retreat was organized and presented by Youth Frontiers, a non-profit organization that aims to create positive communities in which students can succeed. The event focused around the phrase, “Respect is the ability to respond.” Because of this, all the activities that took place tried to encourage students to become the change that their school needs.

With over 250 students congregated in about one fourth of Brookfield East’s Field House, students were practically forced to interact with complete strangers. However, despite the discomfort, the general consensus from students was overall positive.

The retreat began with introductory activities that boosted the energy level in the gym. Such activities included dancing, thumb wars, and saying cheerful sayings like, “Your face is beautiful,” after shaking a new strangers hand. All the instructors asked of from students at the beginning of the day was for them to have an open mind and to be an active participant, which most students did.

After the initial activities, students got into small groups, and were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and go with people they had never met before. Next, the instructors began to ask questions that everyone was to discuss in their groups. The question that resulted in the most time, effort, and thought-provoking conversation was “What are the challenges, traditions, or norms at your school that need improvement?”

Morgan Harlan (’15) recalls this experience, “Being able to talk about such important and serious things with students from multiple different schools was something I had never had the opportunity to do before, and it really allowed me to view things from a new perspective.”

The retreat concluded with an activity that was probably much more emotional than students would have thought. One by one, students would walk up to the front of the gym to tell the rest of the group what they saw as a challenge in their school and how they thought they could make a difference. On their way back, students would grab a piece of broken glass that lay shattered on the ground. The glass symbolized a broken vase, and one by one the students at the retreat were “cleaning up the broken pieces.”

That was the overall message, to empower over 250 to-be-seniors with the idea that one can only fix something if he or she makes the conscious effort to “clean it up.”