Woodbury High School program targets respectWoodebury High School held a Respect Retreat April 18 at the school.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury High School took steps to creating a culture of acceptance, not tolerance, last week during the school’s first ever Respect Retreat.
“We don’t want our kids to feel tolerated, we want them to be accepted,” WHS Assistant Principal Todd Herber said. “We want to make sure we’re building a climate of inclusion – a climate that is respectful of all our students.”
The Youth Frontiers Respect Retreat was held April 18 in the school gym and was attended by all freshmen.
The goal of the Respect Retreat, according to the Youth Frontiers website is to: build a positive school community by breaking down social barriers; help students identify ways they can respect themselves or others more; change the way students treat each other; and learn how to embrace respect as a core value in their lives and school community.
Herber said he wanted to bring the Youth Frontiers Respect Retreat to WHS because it would help students create a positive school climate.
“We’re always looking for ways that we can talk to our students in a meaningful way and equip them with the tools they need to be successful,” Herber said. “We’re looking to the students to help transform this whole climate into one that is inclusive and one that is respectful.”
The Respect Retreat started off in the morning with the roughly 400 freshmen participating in several team building activities and games.
The morning then progressed into small and large group discussions on topics that included various components of respect and the impact of outside influences on teenagers.
“Our students were able to identify the kinds of behaviors they see in school that they like and they were also able to identify the kinds of behaviors that they value,” Herber said.
The day culminated with what Youth Frontier refers to as the “campfire.”
During the campfire students come together in a circle and talked about things they have done, or things that have happened to them, in an open, honest and accepting environment.
“It was a respect retreat, but it’s also a courage retreat,” Herber said. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up in front of your peer group and be honest.
“I was holding my breath as I watched whether or not they would respect their classmates when they came up and were vulnerable – I was very proud of what I saw.”
Herber said he is optimistic the Respect Retreat is changing the school for the positive, specifically when it comes to students standing up for what is right.
“I don’t think bullying is ever eliminated, but what it does do is build more capacity in more kids to make healthier choices,” he said. “It helps provide a framework where kids feel safer to come forward when they have been the target of bullying or a witness to bullying.”
Herber said he hopes to build upon the Respect Retreat every year to build a school of acceptance.
“What we’re trying to strive for is that we’re all human, we do make mistakes,” he said. “That’s OK, but it’s not OK to continually point out the mistakes of others.
“We’re trying to help students accept each other for who they are because the diversity at Woodbury High School is the fabric that really makes Woodbury High School beautiful.”