CHARLES CITY (IOWA) R-E-S-P-E-C-T that’s the goal for the Charles City High School freshmen on Wednesday when they take a day, go off campus, and have an opportunity to learn about, implement, and experience respect. It’s a transition exercise for freshmen, a chance for them to move from the middle school, where there is a lot of drama, into the high school.
This fresh start for the new 9th graders focuses on respect. First, students need to respect themselves, then others, and finally stand up for others when they see non-respectful behavior in the hallways, classrooms, and in and outside of school. Ninth grade students are assisted in the respect retreat by Youth Frontiers, an organization building communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
Thirty-seven upper classmen also participate in the retreat and it’s competitive to take part as mentors. More than 60 sophomore, junior, and senior students apply for the day-long gig and they are the key in adding excitement to the event. Everyone benefits through relationship building. Students know they are held accountable to a higher standard. This goes both ways. Freshmen look up to the upperclassmen for guidance, and the 11th – 12th graders know they have to be a good example and good leaders. Teachers participate in the large group activities. Students are welcomed into the retreat center with cheering and applause. The teachers join in the dancing and singing. They serve lunch and make sure everyone is participating in the large group activities. However, once the small group discussions begin, the teachers are out and the older students take over. By the end of the day students publicly are sharing what their goals are to respect themselves, each other, and how they plan to stand up for their classmates.
The next day at school, the changes continue in the way students treat each other in the hallway and the classroom. For years the program was funded through a grant; however the grant no longer covers this program. The cost of the $2,800 program is covered through donations by local non-profits and service clubs. The Charles City Lions Club covers $750, the Noon Kiwanis $500, and the Charles Theater pays for $250. That leaves a deficit of $1,300 that yet has to be raised to cover the cost of this year’s program.
The freshmen advisory team invites people who are interested in experiencing the freshmen retreat to come to Trinity United Methodist Church Thursday morning. This off-site location is used because of the space needed and it’s air-conditioned. It is recommend people come in the morning, before the small groups begin, it is described as quite a sight to see, all the freshmen students enter the building to a hero’s welcome from upperclassmen cheering and applauding
The event is open to public spectators and begins at 9:30 a.m. You may come and go as your schedule allows.