Retreats reveal that every student unique

It’s 6 o’clock on a Monday morning. The habitual routine of waking up to the sound of the alarm and the smell of breakfast in the kitchen begins my day. The morning news blares in the kitchen as I eat my breakfast and drink coffee in my grey plaid skirt and stark white shirt. I walk out of the door at 7 a.m. Usually I do not leave for school this early, but I, as well as 14 other girls, are planning Ursuline Academy’s student retreats.

I walk into our meeting room looking at the tired, yet happy, girls waiting for our meeting to begin where we will discuss retreat plans. Even as I write this now, I am realizing the early mornings were worth every minute because I received my most gratifying experiences during this time. Being able to see the God-given leadership and the enthusiasm that each one of my team members possesses made me realize that those early mornings were worthwhile.

As a young woman living in today’s society, trying to understand that you are made in God’s image is sometimes hard to accept, even though this fact is made perfectly clear to us. Why do we, as women, often reject that we are perfect in every way? On platforms such as social media, magazines and television, the portrayal of popular images of what we should look like contrasts with reality. We try to form ourselves into that same image while simultaneously forgetting that we are perfectly and wonderfully made by God. Many times young women are faced with challenges such as following the latest fashion or makeup craze just to “fit in”; yet we forget that God does not mind if we “fit in” with the “popular” people.

Through the efforts of the retreat team, our mission was to portray the importance of self-worth, self-esteem and gratitude in our ninth- and 10th-grade girls. This year’s ninth-grade retreat focused on themes of self-esteem and self-worth; whereas the 10th-grade retreat focused on the theme of gratitude.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be on a retreat team composed of 14 great leaders: Mia Acuña, Sarai Bartley, Mykah Brown, Olivia Brown, Rachel Durand, Veronica Flores, Nadia Haik, Megan Harold, Karrington Knight, Angel Love, Caroline MacLaren, Catherine Riddick, Olivia Sensenbrenner and Casey Talbot. Through the arduous efforts of these girls, our retreats were a huge success.

The facilitator of the ninth-grade retreat, Casey Talbot, commented on her experience as a whole: “To see the ninth-grade girls appreciate one another, while learning more about themselves, opened my eyes to realizing that the retreat not only impacted them but also myself.”

During the ninth-grade retreat, team members presented talks on how their self-esteem has changed as they have matured at Ursuline Academy. It was beautiful to see people whom I had known and worked with speak in a way that it touched every single heart in the room.

As the ninth-grade retreat had come and gone, the 10th-grade retreat was quickly approaching with the theme of gratitude lingering in our minds. Moreover, the facilitator of the 10th-grade retreat, Caroline MacLaren, said: “My favorite part was seeing the Retreat Team make a lasting impact on the 10th graders, and I was really grateful for that.” During this retreat, I realized that I have so much to be grateful for, but I never take the time to truly appreciate all of my gifts.

Through these retreats, I learned that each and every one of us is a unique piece of a puzzle, no matter how “popular” one is or even the amount of one’s social media followers. Furthermore, it takes us all coming together to create a beautiful, unique picture that God has hand-crafted.

Marie Foret is a junior at Ursuline Academy in New Orleans.

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