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By Sydney Weil

Retreat has always been a part of Sonoma Academy’s history, having started the year the school opened (2001).

“Retreats are a special opportunity for students to hopefully see one another in new ways after a long summer,” Dean of Students Stacy Cohen said.

While retreats have been going on since the founding year, they weren’t always the way they are now.

“In the beginning, we didn’t do the retreats right at the very beginning of the year,” said Assistant Head of School Ellie Dwight. “We waited and did them at different times.”

Even with the changes made to the timing and formatting of retreats, their core values have stayed the same

“We want them to be a balance of action and reflection,” Ellie said.

And, of course, who could forget about the councils?

Ellie also said that she really values the reflection and truth-sharing that happens during what some might consider the foundation of retreat.

“I wish that’s something that could happen more than it does, and yet there’s something about retreat…that gets us back into that frame of mind of, ‘This is what we do here.’ People are more willing to take the risks and are rewarded for that,” said Ellie.

Students may not realize, however, just how much work goes into planning these amazing experiences.

“Planning a retreat begins about a year in advance,” Stacy said.

All that work pays off, though, when the students arrive back at school in the fall looking forward to retreat.

“It’s most important that each class, over the four years, develop a bond,” Stacy said.

They start right at the beginning, taking the new freshman class to Westminster Woods for a ropes course challenge. While they are mostly still strangers at that point, by the time they go rafting together as a senior class, they have really bonded.

It may take three years for a class to get that close, but even having the opportunity shows the uniqueness of our school and their commitment to our student body.

Stacy said, “There are always moments on every retreat when I step back and say to myself, ‘Yep, this is good, this is what it means to be at a school that supports the entire student.’”

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