The members of the Class of 2017 were officially welcomed to McNicholas during their Freshman Day of Renewal on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
The Freshman Day of Renewal is the first retreat experience that students experience at McNick. Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth, Director of Campus Ministry, said that the retreat is placed two months into the year so the students have time to get acclimated into high school life. He believes the day is a great opportunity for them to come together with all the members of their class.
“It’s a day to serve as both an invitation and a challenge [to the students] to enter fully into the community that McNick has to offer,” Hutchinson-Smyth said.
The focus of the retreat was on each freshman student’s transition into high school and the McNicholas community. They had the opportunity to meet members of their grade that they might not have classes with and received encouragement on aspects of the high school transition where they may be struggling. The freshman class was divided into 16 small groups of ten students each. Thirty-eight seniors volunteered as Peer Ministers to lead these small groups. The freshmen began the day in the main gym with ice-breaker activities, such as untangling a human knot. They then got time in their small groups to create a team name and poster and to get to know each other a little better. Throughout the day, the freshmen heard speeches on how to overcome difficulties in transitioning to high school, and on how to get involved through service. After each talk they had time to return to their small groups to discuss how the speeches related to what they were experiencing in high school so far. Throughout the day, the students made their class candle by each student dripping wax from a small colored candle onto a large white candle. Finally, each freshman personalized a fabric square to be sewn together to make their class banner. Both the candle and the banner are symbols of their joining together both as a class and with the other members of this Christian community. The day concluded with a mass for the students, parents, and faculty celebrated in the main gym by Father Dave Endres.
Overall, the freshmen seemed to agree that it was a fun and meaningful day. The small group time was overwhelmingly the students’ favorite part of the day.
“My favorite part was being in the small groups,” freshman Abby Conatser said. “I really like the people in my group, and it was fun to share with everybody and meet new people.”
Freshman Liz Beck agreed. “We definitely got closer to some of the people we didn’t know,” she said. Beck also said that the ice-breaker games were a great way to start the day. “The human knot was a lot of fun.”
Freshman Sean Kapp said he had a really meaningful experience both in his small group and listening to the speeches from the senior peer ministers throughout the day. “I got to meet some people I hadn’t met before. It was also really nice to hear the senior perspectives,” he said.
Many of the freshmen ended the day with a sense of hope for their upcoming years as Rockets. Freshman Eric Dill said he gained this hope during the seniors’ speeches. “The most meaningful part of the day had to have been the stories they told about how McNick was able to change their life for the better,” he said.