As I headed to the annual Leader Advancement Scholar(LAS) Mentor and Mentee retreat in September of 2017, I realized how different this time around would be. This time I was going as a mentor not a mentee, at a different location than before, and driving my own car instead of riding the buses with everyone else.
LAS Mentor & Mentee retreat is a tradition in which the sophomore LAS class (Mentors) welcomes the freshman LAS class (Mentees) into the Leadership Institute. They spend the weekend at a campground partaking in different bonding activities and ice breakers to form a strong and trusting connection with one another. My mentee and I, Kristen had already started building a strong relationship early on by communicating through text, going to a concert together and even just hanging out at school before this weekend occurred.
The weekend started Saturday September 30th, bright and early. All of LAS from the cohorts of 2016 and 2017 gathered in the lobby of Barnes hall to prepare for our departure to YMCA Camp Timbers. My mentee and I had all of our stuff prepared snuggled up in a corner as it was 8am. As we began to depart, everyone piled onto buses while I got into my car all alone to follow behind. I wasn’t getting on the bus because I was only going to be staying at retreat for the first day. On Sunday I would be getting into my car early in the morning to head to Canton for the Disney College Program Character audition, which you can read more about here. This was a decision I had not made on my own, I asked Kristen how she felt about me leaving the retreat and being the phenomenal human being she is she told me to follow my dreams and go for it.
Upon arrival to Camp Timbers, we were greeted by the staff and briefed on what the weekend would look like and then we were pointed in the direction of our cabins so we could drop off our things. We then gathered in a large area to participate in a large group bonding activity that would separate us into our facilitation groups for the rest of the night.
The entirety of this day included zip-lining, high ropes courses, getting lost (or so we thought) in the woods, bonding activities, a camp fire, and multiple discussion circles and debriefs. Kristen and I spent a lot of our time laughing and supporting each other and I believe that our relationship grew a lot in this one short day. We pushed each other a little further in our comfort zones and confidence while taking on some challenge courses, we ate every meal together, we made memories that will last a lifetime and I am so proud of what we accomplished.
Year two of LAS retreat was much more relaxed for me. I was more comfortable being with my mentee and the cohort that I had already gotten to know throughout the year. Instead of worrying how to fit in, who to talk to or anything along those lines I was truly able to just enjoy my time with Kristen and ensure she was doing the same.
Before I left on Sunday morning, I made sure that Kristen had someone to spend the rest of retreat with. A dear friend of mine, Ellen Wegener took in Kristen to spend the day with her and her mentee Paige. They had a great time together and Kristen did not feel left out at all even though I was at the opposite end of the state.
After having spent this weekend together, I hope to continue to build our relationship even stronger. I don’t want Kristen to see me just as a mentor, I want her to trust in me and start building more of a friendship now that she has become acclimated to college and her surroundings. From our experience here together, I can only hope that her and her mentee next year create as many strong and positive memories as we did this weekend. LAS mentor & mentee retreat is not supposed to be the only time that the pair spend time together, but a stepping stone into a connection that should last forever. I am so grateful to call Kristen my mentee and be her mentor. This weekend brought out her true colors and I loved seeing her grow connections with other mentors and people in her cohort. This is a tradition that the Leadership Institute can only grow on because of how impactful it really is on the relationships of mentors and mentees and cohorts as well.