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Annual Sixth Form Retreat Reunites and Reconnects Senior Class

Kelly Slonaker

The annual Sixth Form Retreat has become a tradition and rite of passage for the graduating class. On the first day of each school year, the class unites to reflect on their time at Canterbury, sets goals and intentions for the year, and, typically, enjoys a sit-down dinner with faculty that culminates in shaking each faculty member’s hand. Though some of those more intimate traditions could not take place this year (social distancing protocols preclude having that many people in the Dining Hall at once, and shaking hands has become a gesture of the past), the class rejoiced in just being able to spend time together.  

The retreat took place over two days and began on the athletic fields with an opening address from Head of School Rachel Stone, who welcomed the class back to campus and reiterated their value and importance as leaders at the School. The class then broke into groups led by Sacristans, Interfaith Council Members, and faculty to reconnect before taking a walk through campus. Sacristan and Boarding Proctor Giselle Bradshaw ’21 remarked how great it felt to see her returning classmates and meet new ones, “The Sixth Form Retreat was a great way to start the new year because we got to reconnect after not seeing each other in person for almost six months as a class. We were also able to get to know and welcome our new classmates.”

The second day of the retreat commenced in Maguire Auditorium with a meditation led by Director of Campus Ministry Devon McCormick. “This year, we asked students to meditate and reflect on what the past few months of unknowns have been like for them, and what anxieties or worries they might be bringing into the year,” she said. “The main focus was getting them into what we call a "posture of receptivity"—an openness to joy and gratitude in the midst of such a different and difficult year. Our hope is that this retreat allows them to let go of any expectations they have placed on themselves and the year to come and to start to hone in on what their true intentions and hopes are.”

The class then broke into their groups again and each was given a clue to find a location on campus where they were presented with meditation stones hand-painted with inspirational and thought-provoking words. Each student was asked to reflect on the word on their stone and explain what the word meant to them and how it might apply to the coming school year. The Sixth Formers then wrote letters to themselves about their hopes and goals for the year, to be opened again right before their graduation in May. Over ice cream and popsicles, the groups each came up with their bucket list of 21 things they’d like to do before they graduate, including reconnecting with someone they've lost touch with, trying something new, and making friends with someone new to them.

Devon McCormick emphasized the significance of the retreat in starting the students’ final year: “This retreat is so important to our Sixth Formers because it gives them a great opportunity to come together as a Form right at the beginning of the year—they are able to reconnect, center themselves, and think about the year ahead.” Interfaith Council member, Sixth Form Council member, Lead Ambassador, and Boarding Proctor Sean Quaye ’21 shared what the experience meant to him and how it brought him closer to his classmates: “It was an empowering and communicative time in which my peers and I were able to grow both spiritually and mentally as we discussed our future goals and grew deeper connections with each other. Never have I ever felt closer and more connected to my class than after this retreat.”