Respect is critical to our work
Respect pervades and defines Youth Frontiers’ work. In fact, 30 years ago Joe Cavanaugh founded Youth Frontiers on that very value. From the first students we worked with on our debut retreat to the more than 1.7 million students and educators we’ve worked with to-date, respect has always been integral to our mission.
Respect makes Youth Frontiers’ mission — to provide schools with experiences that inspire character, civility and community — possible. In our increasingly polarized world, we work to create space in the middle. Space not for compromising one’s values, but rather for conversing with “the other.” Every day on retreat, we invite students and educators who have vastly different worldviews, opinions and experiences from each other to meet on common ground. For students, this may look like the bully and the bullied coming together in a small group to talk about kindness. For adults, this may mean honoring the good work of another educator whose political philosophy differs from their own. Respectful spaces allow for civil conversation. In turn, those civil conversations incite change.
On our Respect Retreat, we ask students to take another look at the way they treat themselves and others. It’s often a mental reset for us adults too. Sometimes this moment of reflection can make all the difference. Taking the time to pause can prevent us from damaging our community — especially in an era when technology affords us a platform for our most immediate and visceral reactions. Respect gives us time to think about “the other” before ourselves.
Our retreats make space for our current and future leaders to exercise respect for and with those who are unlike them. Like we say on retreat, we don’t have to be friends with someone, but we don’t have to be enemies either. These concepts hold true outside of the retreat setting too, outside of that neutral ground. In fact, there it is most important. Respect removes ideological consensus as a prerequisite for positive, character-filled community. Respect transforms.
On our 30th birthday, Youth Frontiers reaffirmed its commitment to respect. In fact, we made it our emblem. In our new logo, the brackets on either side of our flag are misaligned. They don’t fit perfectly together, representing the disparate views of those we bring together on our retreats. Yet, Youth Frontiers plants its flag solidly in the middle, declaring it neutral ground. A foundation of respect allows Youth Frontiers to bring people together in community. We are humbled and grateful to have you, dear reader, be a part of ours.
By Sarah Gavigan, Youth Frontiers Communications Specialist
This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is respect.