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First-year retreats aim to foster multicultural community regardless of COVID-19 changes

| Monday, August 17, 2020

The Black Student Ministry First Year “Plunge” Retreat and Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat took place all day Saturday in an effort to connect first-year students and celebrate their backgrounds. 

Sophomore Dylan Leupi, an Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat leader, said the goal of the retreat was to introduce first years to a community on campus and make them aware that other students are here for them to help them embark on their journeys.

Courtesy of Dylan Leupi
The Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat took place Saturday in the Dahnke Ballroom.

In light of the pandemic, the first-year retreats took place on campus in the Dahnke Ballroom for the Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat and the Stepan Center for the Black Student Ministry First Year Retreat.

More than 50 first-year students, along with 28 leaders participated in The Plunge and around 120 first-year students along with 26 leaders participated in the Asian/Asian American retreat.

The planning behind the retreats began in the summer and required team efforts to adjust to the COVID-19 protocols regarding spacing, catering and activities.

“Throughout the planning process, we focused on what we called the three C’s,” said senior Daryl Naquin Jr., an anchor intern at Campus Ministry. “The three C’s were to cover, to build community and to commission. [The first-years] were coming with a lot of stuff on their hearts. Their senior year was vacated, and they were dealing with racial trauma throughout the past couple of months. But despite everything going on, God still has a purpose for them. That was what we were trying to convey through talks with them.”

Courtesy of Daryl Naquin Jr.
First-year students gathered in the Stepan Center for the Black Student Ministry First Year Retreat on Saturady.

In spite of COVID-19 protocols, many participants said they still enjoyed their retreat experience. 

“My favorite part was in the end when everyone was put into a circle, and we had popsicle sticks, and people stood up in terms of birthdays and tapped people they thought were their friends,” said first year student Iverson Sun, who attended the Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat. “It was a really sweet and wholesome thing.”

Though the circumstances differed from usual retreats, sophomore Jerome Gan, Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat leader said he thinks the group managed to include everything that is traditionally a part of the Asian American Association.

“That was a big success,” he said. “It showed because this morning, waking up to notes, texts, emails from table leaders, from all these first years who I met, and hearing all these positive experiences from them and all these kind words of affirmations really just make my day, my month and my year.”

The retreat leaders, including Naquin, hope the first year students can carry friendships with them as they are about to embark on their college journeys. 

“The goal of The Plunge is to provide first years an opportunity to build community and also gain the wisdom that they need to help them on their journeys,” Naquin said. 

Gan said the same in reference to the Asian/Asian American First Year Retreat.

“I really wanted to remind them that there’s a community when they need it, there is someone to be connected with and will be there for them, be the first years or be it upperclassmen within the Asian community. That’s why I wanted to lead it because I feel a sense of responsibility to these kids and to the community,” Gan said.

While COVID-19 changes have made the first-year experience different, Gan said first-year students will make some of the most extraordinary memories in their life at the retreat.

“COVID isn’t going to stop your year. This year is going to be as special as you make it out to be just as any other year would be,” Gan said. “Sure there are setbacks. It is tougher to meet people right now, but the resilience and the experiences that come out of this will be ones that you will cherish for a lifetime. I know that these kids are going to make the best out of it, and they’re going to go into this year and into next year prepared, strong, resilient, responsible.”

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