On Wednesday June 24, a total of 89 students, faculty, and staff left the Bellevue College campus to attend a leadership retreat at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island. Upon arrival, the group began a series of tasks designed to challenge their skills as leaders, communicators, and community builders.
The retreat, spanning June 24-26, included a mix of leadership clinics, team-building exercises, and solitary reflection time. Leadership clinics included drills on self-evaluation, communication styles, leadership capabilities, and ropes courses. In self-evaluation drills, students identified themselves as being one of four different leadership categories: “drivers,” “expressives,” “amiables,” and “analytics.”
By identifying individual strengths and characteristics, the College’s faculty and staff hoped students would recognize others’ leadership styles so that groups and projects could run more smoothly.
While many students described these workshops and clinics as being “extremely helpful,” “engaging,” and “informative,” most of the retreat’s participants found the retreat’s second day and rope courses to be the “most challenging” and “difficult.”
“These courses are designed to challenge you and make you work together as a team,” said Assistant Dean of the College Faisal Jaswal as a prelude to the day’s ventures at the course. Jaswal, a major organizer and advocate of the leadership retreat, is also a resident of the island.
Though the second day of the retreat entailed a great variety of tasks, the course’s “catwalk” was a pivotal point to the retreat’s many participants, both emotionally and physically.
The catwalk was constructed of a roughly 25 foot-long log, suspended between two live trees about 50 feet in the air. The challenge faced by both the individual and the group as a whole, highlighted the importance of “teamwork and support,” according to one of the course’s curators.
Each participant made a 50-foot climb up to the catwalk, where a roughly 1.5 foot wide, seemingly pendulous log was suspended. These participants were harnessed and tied by a secure rope-and-pulley system and were instructed to walk along the log to reach the other side.
“Live life to the fullest!” cheered exuberant participant Tyler Woods after conquering the catwalk. Woods was the first student of group “Beta” to take on the log. While other team members described Woods as being “poised’ and “confident,” not all of the group’s partakers demonstrated these same qualities.
“I’m terrified of heights,” said Beta group member Ariel Kerr in anticipation of the activity. Kerr achieved her goal of climbing up to the log of the catwalk, even despite her very-obvious fear of heights. With the support of her team, Kerr was able to conquer her fear and inspire others at the same time. For her great demonstration of courage and determination, Kerr was given an award for the “Most Growth” in a ceremony marking the end of the retreat.
This theme of “support” resonated throughout the day’s events. Most surprising were its musical manifestations, which included performances of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” and The Sound of Music’s “Do Ra Me” song, just to name a few.
The ropes course helped identify people’s strengths and how to use them in real life situations and challenges, explained another advisor at the camp.
Though the rope courses were described as being the most popular, other activities at the camp were also successful in bringing students together and analyzing differences in perspective.
The participants stayed on the grounds of Whidbey Island’s Camp Casey. Formerly “Fort Casey,” the camp is roughly 119 years old. Though the buildings, barracks, utilities, and beds could be mistaken as antiques, the spirit of the camp and its campers emulated a sense of jubilance and fun.
At the end of the retreat’s third and final day, every student, faculty member, and staff person alike came together on the fields of Camp Casey to reflect on and celebrate the conclusion of the College’s eighth annual leadership retreat.
Everyone was given the chance to share anything they wanted about their experience, or something they may have learned from the retreat.
Following the reflection time, an award ceremony took place, giving special recognition to outstanding and conspicuous individuals from the retreat. The awards included: people with the most: “Growth, Leadership, Spirit” and being a “Team Player.”
According to Jaswal, the College will have the ability to grow and change with the addition of these essential new leaders. “We have seen a great number of leaders here this week,” he said.