Good Morning Readers,  

My name is Josh Thompson and I am the proud Team Leader serving at the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education. The entire Village (staff and Senior AmeriCorps members) of City Year Milwaukee prepared all summer to welcome our 2016-2017 AmeriCorps members (we affectionately call them "Corps Seven")! We started our ten week long Basic Training Academy and in our second week, we went away to our three day Basic Training Retreat at Inspirational Ministries.  

We use Basic Training Retreat (BTR) as a way to center our corps members on the upcoming year of service. It is a time for reflection, team building, and workshops. I know all this because not only did I attend BTR last year as a first year AmeriCorps member but this year I, along with the other Senior Corps members, facilitated the three-day retreat.  

One main focus of this year's BTR was social justice. We spent a lot of time defining and discussing the topic. I found this to be very beneficial as we head into our service year. Just days before our team departed for BTR, riots started on the north side of Milwaukee; in the wake of civil unrest we know that our work is more important than ever. Leaving for BTR created a space for our trainings to become much more tangible and real. We learned about the cycles of oppression and defined and discussed words such as discrimination, stereotypes and privilege. We centered ourselves on how we can be agents of change through our service to begin to end the cycles of oppression.  

Of course, it wasn't serious the whole time. In between trainings we created spaces for corps members to bond through board games, snacks, and to quietly reflect.   

We ended our time away with the much-anticipated reveal: each corps member found out what school they would be serving at for the next ten months! First, they learned who would be serving on their respective school teams. Then, each team competed in a City Year themed trivia contest and the winners found out their school placements first! 

All in all, the retreat was a much needed time for team and community building. 

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