Aretha Franklin said it best when she said, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”
For more than 15 years, Charles City High School 9th grade students experience a coming of age event at the freshmen respect retreat. The event, held off campus, focuses on students learning about respecting themselves and other classmates, students, and school staff.
Trudy McKeag, a high school English teacher, sees a difference in the days, weeks, months and years after the event. “Students learn about respecting yourself and others. It gives students a fresh start when they come to the high school. They are now in 9th grade, they’re freshmen. We’re going to do things different up here, we’re going to respect ourselves and others.”
The retreat is very high energy at the beginning and slowly breaks down walls allowing students at the end of the day to open up to their classmates about challenges they’ve faced during the last few years. The takeaway is students begin to stand up for what is right, even when it’s difficult or unpopular.
Charles City is a leader when it comes to this program. Youth Frontiers comes from Minneapolis and other area schools take the opportunity to bring them to their school after learning about the impact it has on Charles City school climate after a decade of success. McKeag says, “bringing someone in from the outside has a larger impact on students.”
Local businesses and sponsors cover half of the cost of the retreat with the District covering the remaining costs.