The Character Movement

Students leave behind their comfort zones to build community on a Youth Frontiers Courage Retreat.

Comfort zones can keep us from building community

Courage is curious. It looks different to each of us, and we require its company often and sometimes unexpectedly. We wish it would just come to us whenever we call it. It doesn’t. Instead, we find it waiting for us in an inconvenient place — right outside of our comfort zones.

In January, the students at Lewis and Clark Middle School spent two whole days leavign their comfort zones behind in pursuit of something greater: courage and, ultimately, community. School Counselor Josie McDonnell said she was impressed to see her middle schoolers interact bravely with each other — dancing together and sharing their hidden (and sometimes very goofy) talents in front of their classmates.

“This takes courage, especially for middle schoolers, because what others think is really important to them,” McDonnell said. Her seventh graders took a risk, and the reward was great.

Courage to step out of their comfort zones.

“I saw people breaking out of their comfort zones and making friendships,” she said. “I know it changes the climate because at lunch you see students talking to new people.” The retreat helps them see each other differently, she explained.

For one student, the retreat helped her see herself differently too. “Youth Frontiers made me realize that I should be me and not be ashamed of myself. This is normally hard for me because I’m so self-conscious and there are people who have made fun of me. You also showed me I should stick up for others,” the student wrote after the retreat in an email to Youth Frontiers.

As difficult as it may be, McDonnell’s students continue to act with courage weeks after their Courage Retreat®. “As a counselor, I’m amazed at how people advocate for each other.” McDonnell explained that after the retreat many students came to her on behalf of their friends who were struggling with various issues from cyber-bullying to self-harm — especially when those friends may not have had the courage to advocate for themselves.

Written by Sarah Gavigan, Youth Frontiers Communications Specialist. Post originally appeared in The YouthFront.

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