The Class of 2026 Bonds at the 9th Grade Retreat Before Beginning High School

Maddie Burns, Editor

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  • 9th graders and student leaders spend part of their hour of free time coloring at the picnic tables.

  • 9th graders get to know each other while playing volleyball in the field.

  • 9th graders, student leaders, and teachers play games in the field while waiting for the activity rotations to begin.

  • Teachers Mr. Mac and Mr. Collins help the 9th graders write letters to their future selves.

  • Mr. Voge challenges students with trivia questions in the dining hall.

  • Student leaders and 9th graders work together to complete a puzzle at one of the activity rotations.

  • Students spent the night in cabins with about eight other 9th graders and their student leaders.

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A little after 3:00 p.m. on Sunday Aug. 28, about 175 students of La Salle’s incoming 9th grade class arrived at Camp Howard for La Salle’s 9th grade retreat. The purpose of this retreat was simple, to make sure that when the school year began, 9th graders would feel comfortable and have someone to sit with at lunch. 

This year, La Salle had almost 40 ninth graders who were coming from a middle school by themselves or with only one other student. “Ms. O’Brien’s vision was to make this retreat a place where kids could meet people,” said Director of Community and Student Leadership Ms. Adriana Noesi, who was heavily involved in planning this event.

The moment students stepped off the buses and onto Camp Howard’s basketball courts, they were greeted by student leaders, a group of students from La Salle’s sophomore, junior, and senior classes who had been trained to lead the 9th graders in a variety of activities during their time at the retreat. 

As the day went on, 9th graders were introduced to some of La Salle’s staff including the Director of Faith, Mr. Tom McLaughlin also known as Mr. Mac, who led the students and staff in an opening prayer and a land acknowledgement and explained its importance to the incoming class. 9th graders then got to split into groups and play games with other students as a way to get to know each other. 

At 5:30 p.m., everyone met in the dining hall for the Core Principles Dinner, a time to listen to teachers speak about the five Lasallian core values, which students learn about during all four years at La Salle. 

After dinner, students were given an hour of free time where they could play games and do other activities before getting to watch “The Goonies” in the dining hall and hang out on the dining hall’s back deck. This was a perfect time for students to have a chance to socialize with their new friends without having to participate in structured activities. “I love that kids sat down and played cards right away, and they brought poker games and Pokémon cards,” Ms. Noesi said.

On Monday, Aug. 29, students woke up at 7:00 a.m. and ate pancakes for breakfast in the dining hall shortly after. For the rest of their time at Camp Howard, the 9th graders were split into new groups and went through six rotations including trivia with teachers Mr. Kyle Vogue and Ms. Carie Coleman and writing letters to their future selves that they will get to open senior year with teachers Mr. Mac and Mr. Paul Collins. 

By 2:00 p.m., it was about time for the 9th graders to board the buses and head back to La Salle. Before they left, they were able to hear a closing prayer led by Mr. Mac and were given the chance to reflect on the time they got to spend together. 

When asked what her favorite part of the retreat was, Ms. Noesi said, “those impromptu moments because you can’t fabricate those, we can try, but when they happen on their own it’s really magical.” 

9th graders Ashley Kamhoot and Emma Smith agreed that the unplanned moments were the best part of their experience. “When we were watching the movie, everyone went outside and there was a little dance party,” Kamhoot said. 

Since the school year has begun, Ms. Noesi said that she can tell that the retreat was a success. “I do think that the kids built rapport at this retreat, and they came into their first day of school knowing somebody,

and that was our goal,” Ms. Noesi said. 

Due to this year being the first year with a new format for the 9th grade retreat, Ms. Noesi thinks that there will be changes made in the future but based on its success, there are hopes that an event similar to this one will happen in the following years. 

“Having an event that is purely based on our community and relationships, ten out of ten,” Ms. Noesi said. “I think it might look a little bit different and that’s fine as we improve and as we get a program that really works.”