This winter, seventh grade students from Minnetonka Middle School East participated in the school’s annual Courage Retreat, an offsite experience hosted with partner organization Youth Frontiers. For more than 20 years, the Courage Retreat has been a highlight for many middle schoolers and has provided students with the opportunity to connect with their peers in a new way.
"The day is full of fun activities with stories, lessons, humor, and discussion around kindness, sticking up for yourself and others, staying true to yourself, acts of courage and making good choices," said Tara Kamann, a school counselor at MME and one of the coordinators for the event.
"It’s a high-energy day for our students, and it’s great to see them having fun and letting loose in a different setting. There are also a lot of important messages and takeaways from the day, which is why we think it’s such an important experience for our seventh graders,” said Kamann. She noted that at the end of the retreat, students participate in a particularly meaningful activity called “pebble in the pond,” where they can share their “act of courage” and what they are committing to doing or changing moving forward. “It’s basically their personal takeaway from the day, and it’s very moving,” said Kamann.
Volunteers from Minnetonka High School played an important role in making the retreat a success. They supported staff from Youth Frontiers and MME by managing small groups and assisting in activities. This year, nearly 75 high school students assisted with the event.
"I knew when I saw the opportunity to volunteer at the MME Courage Retreat, I knew that I would go!" explained student volunteer Olivia Leuer ‘27. "I truly enjoyed hearing the conversations that were prompted in my small group time. The group of seventh graders that I had were respectful, well-intentioned and wise for their age,” she shared. “They responded to our questions with answers that had depth to them and were very honest. I loved how easy it was to chat with them about the topics Youth Frontiers brought up and how maturely they handled different situations."
Another MHS volunteer, Lucas Brama ‘27 enjoyed the opportunity to help out with the event. "There was this bit where we had to run under a jump rope that was swinging. We made a big long line of volunteers, and we all ran through. It was also just a good experience in general volunteering with friends."
"The reason I decided to volunteer is to connect with my community and the younger generation coming into the high school along with empowering them to be courageous," said Sadie Stowers ‘26. "My favorite part was at the end when all of the kids went to talk about what they want to do in the future to be better people. I feel that is so important because we live in a world where taking risks and looking ahead is sometimes a fear, but I saw the potential for the future."
The Courage Retreat provides seventh graders with time to enjoy high-energy activities and learn some important lessons along the way.