By Marisa Milone, City Year AmeriCorps Member serving on the Northwest Elementary School Team sponsored by Comcast NBCnNiversal
In August, the CYNH corps members and staff went to Camp Berea in Hebron, NH for our Basic Training Retreat. This was a time for the CYNH team to spend some time away from Manchester and enjoy some the outdoors as well as each other’s company. I was excited to spend some time with my fellow corps members outside of the office and get the chance to get to know my school team better. The three days went by very quickly, yet I was able to gain so much from trainings and my CY family.
The first day we traveled up to Camp Berea and had the chance to take in the campground. The camp is located on the beautiful Newfound lake and it was nice to relax by the water during our downtime. We did a few trainings that day, but the one that had the most impact on me from, arguably, the whole retreat was the Anatomy of Peace training. The prior two weeks of Basic Training Academy had been enjoyable and fun but we did a lot of trainings on how to work in a school setting and with the students. The trainings at BTR gave us a chance to have some personal insight in to who we are as people and how that will affect our work as corps members. The Anatomy of Peace training focused on two different ways we approach situations that happen to us. We either approach with a heart at peace or a heart at war. With a heart at peace, we accept the situation for what it is. With a heart at war, we approach situations or events with resistance. During this training, I learned that I often react with a heart at war when I have been wronged or I disagree with a situation. This training gave me the ability to understand the way I approach conflicts.
The second day, Stephen Spaloss, Regional VP of City Year, led two interactive sessions called the Cycles of Oppression and Privilege Line. I recently graduated from UNH with a degree in English Lit and a minor in Women’s Studies so I have a special interest in social justice. I was looking forward to this training for that reason. Stephen was a great facilitator and his honesty with us created an open and safe environment. During the Cycles of Oppression, I appreciated and enjoyed listening to everyone stand behind something that mattered to them. I had heard of the Privilege Line before, so when we did that activity I knew what to expect. It was a sobering exercise that opened up space for corps members to reflect on their privilege and thoughts on privilege.
On our final day, we had a lot of time for reflection. I really enjoyed the appreciations we did for one another. We taped a piece of paper to our back and wrote reasons why we appreciate each other. There wasn’t enough time to write something on everyone! It was nice to see everyone seeking out each other to write a little something. Reading mine after the activity was a wonderful feeling and I know I will seek out those appreciations when I’m feeling down.
We also had the chance to do some fun activities with our school teams. The Northwest team created a skit based off of our founding story, Water. We even made a pyramid without getting hurt! We also had the chance to perform our skit at the talent show. The talent show was a great time for people to show off their talents, and be a little silly. During the evening, we had the option to eat s’mores, play volleyball, or play board games. I spent my two nights either sitting on the docks looking at the stars or sitting by the campfire. I even gave volleyball a shot (sorry to whomever was on my team). Looking back on my experience on BTR, I have fond memories of those three days. I learned a lot about myself and my fellow corps members. During BTR, I definitely became closer to my school team and believe that we have a stronger bond as a team because of that time.