By Aces Lira, AmeriCorps Member, serving at Hallsville Elementary School.

The time arrived for our whole site retreat and the follow-up from our Basic Training Academy was very much needed. It became a great opportunity to help welcome our mid-year AmeriCorps members into the City Year culture and a perfect window to further understand each other’s experiences both personally and professionally.

I was a bit nervous on the idea of going to cabins and not being warm enough, we can call it "California paranoia", but I was also nervous about our Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) teach back sessions where we basically had to recreate a session we learned at NELA and teach it back to our corps. Prepping the best we could, the "Dimensions of Success" went by with...success. We had an engaging and fun time talking about how to prioritize our own responsibilities and making time for some reflections on how to better the approach in teams to reach better end-results. We also poured some rocks, pebbles, sand, and water (in that order) to visually display how our own capacities could be further understood. And with the various sessions, we had an honest conversation about meeting our site-wide goals with tracking minutes and developing more open communication among teams.

During the retreat, we were also able to see each other through a human lens and realize that the small talk in the 10 minutes we meet in the lot most days isn't enough. With foosball and ping-pong tables, card games, and vulnerable sharing experiences; bonding happened across the board within the corps. The talent show was a huge highlight! There were numerous a cappella performances by Sarah and Nina, improvised skits with Madi and Ana, Jake's creative soundtracks for teammates, Sam's opera number and the grand lip singing show by Harvey and Tyler, gave us the opportunity to shine our talents. I'd also thank my teammate for helping me discover snow-shoeing for the first time and for the brave few that made the trek to have a photo-shoot by the lake, it made the experience that much more memorable. See photo above.

Advance Training Retreat is known for being a time where individuals get squishy and where we're able to retreat and recharge. From a range of challenges as small as trying a piece of fruit that you don't normally eat to performing improv to the entire site as an audience, it's safe to say that we left having challenged ourselves as we advance further into our City Year. Those three days went by fast but the lessons and experiences will hopefully last us for years to come. 

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