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Freshmen kickoff retreat allows students to foster new friendships

In the afternoon, freshmen Jackson Gilcrest, Jackson Sherwood, Naomi Corsini and Joy Johnson excitedly anticipate their turn to climb on the ropes course at Historic Banning Mills.

photo by Ashley Smith


The freshmen built new relationships and challenged their fear of heights on the annual kickoff retreat at Historic Banning Mills. Because of its treetop ropes courses and teambuilding scavenger hunt, the retreat allowed students to get out of their comfort zones and develop better friendships.

Historic Banning Mills is a historic park in Carroll County, Ga., which features a large and open campus with thrilling ropes courses, ziplines, hiking trails and much more. The forest scenery and 70 degree fall weather provided the perfect backdrop for the annual outdoor event.

“It’s really big, so we had lots of room to spread out across the entire campus,” freshman Naomi Corsini said. “I think it was an amazing choice because it was so pretty, and the October weather was so pleasant.”

This year, the activities on the retreat included a ropes course with two levels–the shorter level, with a lower and easier course, and the longer level, with higher and more strenuous obstacles. The retreat also included a GPS scavenger hunt with several team-building exercises.

“I had a blast,” Corsini said. “The ropes course was really cool; it was super unique. It went so high up…and the scavenger hunt was really cool, too.”

The most highly anticipated activity was ziplining. However, the ropes course mostly consisted of obstacles and only a few ziplines. Regardless, the freshmen enjoyed working as a team and solving puzzles that required outside-of-the-box thinking.

“I expected to mainly focus on ziplining and obstacle courses, but we focused on bonding and teamwork,” freshman Grant Stubbs said. “The retreat didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had, just because I expected to do more ziplining. That wasn’t a bad thing. It still was an enjoyable experience.”

For the teambuilding activities, students participated in a scavenger hunt which included several different stations. Activities included a memory game, a word game and other challenges. The first team to successfully complete the most challenges won the scavenger hunt.

Historic Banning Mills offered a new environment for the students where they could try something new, be pushed out of their comfort zones and bond with their classmates.

“I loved the retreat because we got to go outside of school, branch out, be with people that we don’t usually get to be with [students who may not have classes together or maybe in opposite sessions], do things that we don’t usually get to do and connect with people that we wouldn’t bond with if we were at school,” freshman Joy Johnson said.

The trip allowed students to strengthen relationships with their classmates and cheer each other on. When compelled to work as a team, the students bonded over their experiences while facing their fears.

“Because some people were afraid to do the ropes course, we were motivating each other by saying ‘You can do it,’ or ‘I believe in you,’” Johnson said. “That helps us get closer to each other because it was so different from other things we’ve done.”

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