The Character Movement

Building Community at North Junior High

Every year, generous donor support makes hundreds of retreats possible and keeps our mission in motion in communities across the Midwest. This fall, donor support particularly impacted one school: North Junior High.

For two days in November, Youth Frontiers had the opportunity to bring a diverse class of seventh graders in St. Cloud, Minn., together to talk about the courage it takes to follow your heart and not the crowd. The generosity of Dick and Joyce McFarland and the Mardag Foundation made these powerful Courage Retreats possible.

Throughout the retreat days, our staff saw students connect, challenge themselves and see each other with new empathy. One student, who had seemed disinterested and distracted throughout the retreat, was the first to stand and share his act of courage with his peers. “I have judged people, and I have left people out because of what they look like, and I am not going to do that anymore,” he said. “No matter where you come from, what color your skin is or what you look like, we can all get along.” An overwhelming number of students in the class shared similar resolve.

“I was really proud of how open our students were,” said Administrative Intern, Richmond Tweh. “I really felt a sense of community.”

The commitments and reflections students shared that day reminded us that we cannot always perceive what students are thinking, feeling or what part of our messages might resonate with them. Our retreats work because they provide a space where students can self-reflect and deepen their empathy. Our mission to partner with schools to build positive communities is powerful because it speaks the same truth to all kids: that they matter and how they treat each other matters.

Retreats like these are why your support is so important. Your investment changes students’ lives by helping them see themselves and each other more completely. We thank the McFarlands and the Mardag Foundation for investing in the lives of North Junior High School students!

To join them and help support our mission, please visit

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