Ms. Shawn Mauser and Ms. Cristina Rutz check the roster before departing from Ann Richards. The NJHS retreat is a trip that the National Junior Honor Society takes to Bamberger Ranch in the Johnson City area from Friday evening to Sunday morning every year.
It takes place at Selah, a name from the Bible. “Selah” means to stop and reflect, and that’s exactly what the students do over the few days they spend there. “I really like the retreat because its a way to get away from society,” Sofia Duarte (8) said. “We get to go hiking and hang out with friends.”
Cedar Toavs (9) tucks in the sheets of her dormitory bed. The ranch houses a big cabin the students stay in. There are dormitories, a kitchen, and a living space with cozy rocking chairs as well as a fireplace. The ranch truly is a place to call home for a few days, and as you unpack and open the windows you get a sense of that. “We made our own houses,” Alondra Garcia (7) said about the dorms.
Ms. Mauser unloads bags from the back of the bus. When students arrive, they unload their belongings from the bus. Freshman get to choose their dormitories first. “I guess it is emotional,” Isabella Salas (9) said. “You know you’re not gonna come back. …. [I enjoy] getting to hang out with… friends without the chaos of having to plan…, and hiking, and swimming.”
(Clockwise from left) Calen Kelly (8), Jahsenta Henry (8), Zsofi Teleki-Avery (8), and Sofia Duarte (8) braid each others’ hair. Many students enjoy not having to worry about homework for a few days. The retreat is an opportunity to unwind and unplug. Ms. Mauser and Ms. Rutz encourage the students to not use electronics all weekend except for taking photos. “It’s a fun way to get to know people and talk about things other than school,” Claire Moore (8) said. “[It’s good] not having to deal with things at home.”
Samantha Cooke (9) makes a friendship bracelet. Another part of the bonding experience is crafting with one another! Over the weekend, the freshman made lanyards and bracelets. Zentangling, volleyball, reading and more are popular activities. Additionally, the students enjoy hanging out on the property. “[In Austin]… there’s always some sort of noise,” Salas (9) said. “It’s refreshing to hear… the forest.”
Sofia Duarte (8) and Lauren Willard (8) giggle while waiting for the bats to come out. Students take a 20-minute walk to the bat cave, where a bat colony comes out for the night. At the retreat, students get the opportunity to spend more time with people they normally wouldn’t. As a result, they become closer. Though the students spend time cooking and enjoying the outdoors, they also get plenty of time to talk. “I think our sisterhood has become stronger, said Dayan Barreto (8).
Samantha Cooke (9) plays cards with her friends. The retreat is a great opportunity to do things other than stare at a screen. People bring card games, crafts, books and more. Recreation is the top priority on the retreat! “When I’m not on electronics I’m more aware of what’s going on in the world,” Liliana Marquez (9) said. I enjoy being in nature ‘cause I don’t get to do it a lot.”
Mairany Serrano (9) sits on the bus. The bus ride is one hour to an hour and a half, and once the students get there it is very difficult to get wifi. This means that there’s either a lot of time to yourself or hanging out with friends. “I enjoy being able to get away from school, and just from stressful things,” Liliana Marquez (9) said. “It’s good to relax with friends.”
(L-R) Makaya Wisely-Brown (9), Mairany Serrano (9), Georgia Ringstaff (9), SaNaya White (9), and Anika Villavicencio (9) play ninja in the front yard. The retreat is a great opportunity to spend time outside. Bamberger Ranch is over 5,000 acres. The students have the opportunity to hike, swim, and more. “I like going on long nature walks and crossing rivers and streams and absorbing sunlight,” Calen Kelly (8) said.
Liliana Marquez (9), Virginia Hughes (9), and Samantha Cooke (9) laugh with each other. The retreat is a great way to let loose and be silly with your friends. Overall, the retreat is something to enjoy. Some advice from freshmen: “Take advantage of the retreat,” Liliana Marquez (9) said. “Don’t sit around, just enjoy the beauty of nature.” This was a lesson that multiple students seemed to preach. “Don’t expect to go and sit on your phone the whole time,” Isabella Salas (9) said. “Don’t go in thinking you’ll be able to relax the whole time, you’ll end up walking and running way more than you thought you would.”