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Seventh graders learn about everyday courage

February 20, 2013

   Pictured above are the group leaders who were high school volunteers from area school districts that helped to lead each of the small group sessions during the Courage Retreat.  
 Fulda Free Press Carol Schreiber
Fulda Free Press Carol Schreiber
Pictured above are the group leaders who were high school volunteers from area school districts that helped to lead each of the small group sessions during the Courage Retreat.
by Carol Schreiber
Presenters Joe and Erik from Youth Frontiers stressed the need for everyday courage at the Courage Retreat held for seventh grade students last week. “It’s not the courage to save a person in a burning building,” they said. “It’s the courage to do the right thing, stand up for someone else and be yourself.”

On Tuesday, February 12, schools taking part in the retreat were Round Lake-Brewster, Ellsworth, Fulda and Worthington. On Wednesday, February 13, Southwest Star Concept, Adrian and Worthington students took part in the Courage Retreat.

As the day began, the seventh grade students took part in large group opening sessions, designed to get the students to enjoy themselves and meet some of the other students from neighboring schools. “Let’s Make a Deal” was played, as students took part in the ice-breakers.

A rousing game of Mongo Volleyball was enjoyed, with the help of four high school leaders serving as captains. Using a balloon inside a pillowcase, a version of volleyball was played while seated on the auditorium floor. Pointes were given for goals and for team enthusiasm.

Joe and Erik encouraged the students to follow the ‘three-Rs’ throughout the day. Respect, Risk and Real were the “R”s stressed.

Students were asked to respect each other, the space they were in, the high school group leaders and their teachers and staff members.

“Take a risk, participate in small group discussions and share your voice,” they said. Despite some things being out of the seventh graders comfort zone, students were encouraged to take part.

“Be Real” was the final “R” to follow for the day. “Be yourself, and let the people around you be real.”

Seventh graders were divided into groups for a variety of small group sessions during the day. High School volunteers from the area school districts led each of the small groups during the day.

Fulda high school volunteer group leaders on Tuesday were juniors Myah Holinka, Cole Dierks, Melissa Gehl, Jared Smith and Jordan Clarke, and sophomores Anna Winter, Caitlin Mae Strenge and Hope Muecke.

As the small group sessions began, the seventh grade students shared information about themselves and their schools with other members of the group.

“The YF leaders challenged the students to not just say the correct and good things at the retreat,” explained Round Lake-Brewster teacher Lori Vetsch, “but to prove their decision by having their actions match their words.”

Discussion questions included ways that peer pressure affects people in your class, both positively and negatively. Students discussed ideas of what to do if there was no technology or television available for a year.

During the afternoon, a large group game was played. Two leaders twirled the rope while students tried to pass under it without getting touched by the rope. If one student was touched, all students who had already gone under had to go back and try again until all got through without any getting touched. It took team work, concentration and cheering for team members.

One Youth Frontiers leader shared how he had to make important decisions in his life after sports injuries. Would he try out for the play and get picked on or continue being the team manager and not get to play himself? He made a decision based on what was best for him, not what others told him to do. He ended up loving theater and that's how he got into Youth Frontiers. He told the students to make decisions based on what they know in their heart is right and know that is best for them, not what the crowd tells them to do.

Each student had time to make a decision that took courage and write it down. Later, students were given the opportunity to share their decision with the group. Things shared included, "I have decided that I am going to not go along with the crowd to pick on my classmates but stand up for them" or "I have decided I am going to be honest from now on" or "I am not going to call classmates names, but treat my classmates and teachers with respect."

“I think that Youth Frontiers does an outstanding job making this day fun, entertaining, and meaningful. They know how to hook kids in to make an

impact around better school climate. Junior high is a rough time socially for kids in any school; but I think that the Fulda kids really could identify with the stories that were told that day. I know they made an

impression in that I have had kids approach me about forming some small groups in school to keep the positive messages alive in their class. There were a lot of laughs, but some tears as well; showing me that this day made a difference,” Kristin Peltola, Fulda School Counselor stated.

The retreat and the presenters from Youth Frontiers (based in Minneapolis) was sponsored by the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

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