As a graduation requirement, all McNicholas seniors must attend a retreat, either Kairos or Appalachia. Some students decide to go on both retreats, or even three if they are chosen as a Kairos leader for their classmates.
Senior Molly Smith had the experience of attending three retreats. She went on Kairos 104 in April 2016, led Kairos 106 in October 2016, and went on the Appalachia retreat in February 2017. “The retreat that I got the most out of was K106 because being responsible for giving a retreat to other people is what I loved. My Kairos was more focused on me, but leading made it focused on other people,” Smith said. As for seeing her classmates grow in their relationship with God, others, and themselves, she thinks Appalachia provided it. “Appalachia was where I saw the most growth in others because of the bonding time that we had with each other instead of just thinking about ourselves,” Smith said.
Senior Cameron Cheevers also has attended three retreats. She went on Kairos 105 in August 2016, led Kairos 106 in October 2016, and went on the Appalachia retreat in February 2017. “It is hard to compare the retreats because they are all so different, but I think that I got the most out of Appalachia. It was a wonderful experience mostly because I was able to focus my energy on so many people in so many different ways. I was doing service for others in ways that I had never thought of before,” Cheevers said. She agreed with Smith about seeing her classmates grow the most on the Appalachia retreat. “People were reaching out to others, and they could really see the difference that they were making,” Cheevers said.
For both Smith and Cheevers, they decided that they wanted to be Kairos leaders after experiencing their own Kairos retreat. “When I heard what Kairos had to offer, I related it to my story and I knew that I had something to share that people would want to hear,” Smith said. Cheevers decided to be a leader when the peace that Kairos brought inspired her. “I wanted to be a part of that for someone else,” Cheevers said.
Senior Ben Wainscott attended Kairos 104 in April 2016, led Kairos 105 in August 2016, and attended the Appalachia retreat in February 2017. “I believe that if I wouldn’t have gone on Kairos, I would not have appreciated Appalachia as much as I did. But I think that leading Kairos was the most rewarding to me,” Wainscott said.
Seeing the change in his classmates throughout Kairos was exactly what he wanted to experience. “I became a Kairos leader because I wanted to help others who had any doubts with their own faith. I was struck by everything that I experienced on my own Kairos and I thought that holding it all in would be selfish, so I wanted to share with everyone,” Wainscott said.
Senior Rielly Dowell-Howko attended October Kairos and Spring Appalachia. “Appalachia is what I got the most out of because it was more hands on stuff,” Dowell-Howko said. He agreed with Cheevers in that he grew the most on Kairos. “It was more about yourself and you could find who you are on Kairos,” Dowell-Howko said.
As far as a total change in the Class of 2017, not many people see a total turn around. “I don’t think the senior class as a whole has had a change of heart, but there are definitely some people who I see a change in. I think it depends on your attitude towards the retreats, and how you decide to let them change you. Because of that, not everyone is going to have a transformative experience,” Cheevers said. Smith believes that everyone is more open to being friends now instead of being part of a clique. Dowell-Howko sees more hugging among his classmates.
Wainscott said that every high school student should have the opportunity to go on retreats like the students at McNick do. “It is important to take a step back sometimes. When you are always going, you never get to appreciate everything that is happening. The retreats were great ways for me to not only learn about my faith, but about others and their faith. I witnessed them witnessing faith,” Wainscott said.