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Campus Ministry hosts multicultural retreats

| Monday, September 5, 2016

More than 200 first years from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross attended the three multicultural freshman retreats offered by Campus Ministry in the first two weeks of classes: the Asian/Asian American Freshman Fall Retreat, the Latino Freshman Retreat and the African American Freshman Retreat better known as “The Plunge.”

Although the three retreats cater to different demographics, student leaders for each said their purpose was to foster community and cultural identity.

“[The Asian/Asian American Freshman retreat is] one of the first retreats of the year and a lot of freshmen are still struggling to find their place,” sophomore Sid Magdaong, the Asian American Association membership outreach chair, said. “When they go to the retreat, it’s a lot about finding identity and finding people you can relate with.”

The student leaders for all three retreats have been involved with their respective retreat every year since they first attended as first years.

“I think back to my freshman year, and the retreat is all I associate with it,” senior Plunge coordinator Imanne Mondane said. “It was the cornerstone of my freshman year experience. It helped me with transitioning to Notre Dame and expressing my blackness without feeling ashamed of being black on this campus or being the minority. It made me feel like I had a support system. We made our own family.”

Multicultural ministry anchor intern for Latino Campus Ministry Jessica Pedroza said the Latino Freshman Retreat helps create a welcoming environment for first years.

“Latino Campus Ministry strives to let people know that we’re here for them and we’re building bridges and really trying to get the freshmen closer to each other, but also closer to God, their faith and their particular spirituality,” Pedroza said.

The retreats broke first years up into small groups, each with a few upperclassmen to help guide discussion after speeches or testimonials from other student leaders.

“We had a community speaker, identity speaker, spirituality speaker and academic,” Mondane said. “After each speaker, they’d break off into their small groups and reflect on what the speakers said and how they feel about it and about going to Notre Dame.”

The Asian/Asian American retreat had 103 first years sign up, The Plunge had 60 and Latino Freshman Retreat, 56.

Sophomore Alyssa Ngo, a retreat leader for the Asian/Asian American retreat, said the theme for the retreat was chains.

“Chains can represent something both negative, like being weighed down or held up, but also positive — they’re the things you connect to and can pull you forward,” she said. “We thought that since this is a freshman retreat, they’re coming from a place they’re familiar with and they’re coming someplace new. In that time of transition, thinking of what’s holding you back from making new connections is really important.”

“Welcome Home: Tu Aventura Comienza,” — literally, “Your adventure begins” — was the theme for the Latino Freshman Retreat.

“A lot of it is emphasizing home and family,” Pedroza said. “They have a home within Latino ministry, within the Latino community. … We’re a family. I feel like a lot of Latinos especially don’t feel at home right at the beginning. We really want to make sure that if they haven’t found home yet, they have a home within our community.”

While only the Asian/Asian American retreat is officially affiliated with a student cultural club — the Asian American Association — the retreat leaders said most of the first years who later become involved in multicultural student organizations, such as Latino Student Alliance and Black Student Association, start off by going on one of the retreats.

“[The Asian American Association] was such an important part of [Magdaong’s and my] freshman year, and the retreat was what started it all,” Ngo said. “I think we both recognized the importance of that in someone’s freshman year.”

Above all, Mondane said the point of the retreats was to welcome first years to a community they identify with.

“I want the freshman to have an experience they never forget but I also want them to feel welcomed and that there’s a place for them, not just in the black community but in the wider community,” Mondane said.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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