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From October 23 to 25 students from Emmanuel College gathered in Cape Cod for a retreat aimed to support the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Student leaders and staff reflected on their experience and how it is aimed to help the Emmanuel Community as a whole.
“Half of what you learn in college is extracurricular and the other half is community.” said campus minister Tony Krzmarzick who was a staff leader for the Reaching OUT Retreat. He was moved to become a leader on the retreat because he “…believed in the mission of the retreat to provide a safe space for people who identify as LGBTQ+ and to provide experiences with people who can relate and understand.”
He felt that it was important to communicate that God loves people because of how they identify because everyone is a likeness of God. He felt that the retreat was a way to affirm God’s love for the LGBTQ+ people, that those who “cling to old misunderstandings of religion” choose to exclude.
The weekend on Cape Cod is split up into three different days which feature “talks.” The first day students participate in ice breakers and a “Step Into The Circle” activity. This consists of a student leader reading off an “I” statement and all those who identify with it take a step into the circle. This allows students to come together and realize they are not alone in their internal struggles. The talks that happen on day two and day three feature student leaders sharing a story about their journey and organize activities to reflect on it.
“I loved the way in which people put themselves out there so vulnerably.” Krzmarzick stated in regards to the student leader’s talks.
Sal Zarzana ’18 was a student retreat leader and felt it was a “safe, non judgmental, open, and unbiased space.” As a retreat leader he supported in facilitating guided meditation during down times. This allowed students to go within themselves and reflect on how they felt about their internal struggles and feel supported throughout them.
The activity that stuck out to him most was the “Footprints in the Sand” activity. This happened on the night of the second day where all retreaters carried a rock with them to the beach. Once arrived, they focused on putting all their energy towards things that have been affecting them and holding them down into the rock. After transferred whatever has been troubling them into the rock, they then threw it into the ocean. According to Zalzana this activity “represents a turning point to buckle down and get serious to the heart of the issue.”
GRae Callanta, Assistant Director of Residence Life and staff leader on the retreat stated, “It can be life changing, it can be a get away from campus, it can be a spiritual exploration…”
GRae was moved to become a leader on the retreat because “I’m one of the only out, queer, spiritual, womyn of color on campus, and it’s important for me to be visible and active in communities that are important to me. It’s important for me to help provide the space for students who identify similarly to be in community and engage in important dialogue.”
At the end of the weekend students from all walks of life that attended the retreat felt a better understanding of each other, a better sense of community, and a better sense of self.
According to Zarzana, if there was anything he wanted to tell someone who has never been on the retreat it is that “You are not alone.”