Horizons is a freshmen transition retreat facilitated by the Balfour Office of Multicultural Activities, and designed to serve a twofold purpose: (1) to create an intentional community of support for freshman students, and (2) to strengthen the freshman transition from high school to college. The retreat has a focus on Providence College's multicultural student population and features exploration of diversity and multiculturalism (both at PC and on college campuses in general) through dialogue, workshops and activities.
Horizons emerged as the product of a strongly expressed need by our multicultural students (via focus groups and experiential feedback) to connect with one another in an environment physically away from PC, wherein a high degree of meaningful cohesion could take place. This cohesion would then serve to carry the retreat participants through their freshman year transition in an ideally support-reinforced manner. Additionally, the retreat curriculum is engineered to intentionally stimulate dialogue and provoke reflection; to inspire an appreciation of differences and commonalities with regards to the global community; to engage in a preliminary exploration of issues of diversity; and to enhance the participants' sense of self-awareness.
Goals & Objectives
Simplified objectives are as follows:
To foster relationships amongst the students of color at Providence College.
To help connect students with different on-campus resources that will ease their transition into college.
To give upperclassmen the opportunity to express their personal and college experiences through mentor relationships with incoming freshmen.
To give upperclassmen the opportunity to become leaders while also giving incoming freshmen a glimpse of ways that they too can become leaders.
To create an open environment for students of all cultural backgrounds to freely engage in discussions about cultural and racial prejudices that exist in society.
To give students the opportunity to gain the skills that will help them navigate through the Providence College community as multicultural students.
Retreat Modules included:
Racial Profiling & Stereotypes
Viewing and dialogue of the documentary "What's Race Got To Do With It?"
Bonfire Reflection & Meditation
Strategies as to how to connect the retreat experience with the transition through PC
High number of team builders and icebreakers spread throughout the weekend
This first annual overnight retreat ran from October 2-3, 2010, and was facilitated at Camp Fuller, located in Wakefield, RI. It was facilitated by Nedzer Erilus along with 10 upperclassmen mentors. A total of 26 participants engaged in the experience. Beyond this, monthly gatherings have been arranged wherein retreat participants will gather over the course of the academic year. This serves several intentional purposes:
To continue the stimulation of the connections made at the retreat;
To gain continuous experiential feedback regarding the retreat participants' transition through PC;
To provide resources, support and guidance to any emerging challenges;
To continue the dialogue pertinent to diversity and multicultural issues contended with at PC.
The article below was written by Saadia Ahmed '14, a participant in the Horizons experience.
The first Horizons retreat, held during the first weekend of October, would be my third consecutive retreat, and I admit to feeling weary at that point of, once again, packing the same 2-day supplies of clothing, toiletries, and bed sheets, and loading onto a big, yellow school bus to drive for an hour to a wooded, secluded camp. But the continuity and anticipated outcomes ended there. Each retreat varied in infinite ways from another because of their own individualized purposes and because of the diversity of personality and strengths of the leaders. Each retreat recognized common problems faced by first-semester freshmen, including (but certainly not limited to) meeting higher academic expectations, finding a sense of belonging in the social scene, and familiarizing with Providence College enough to call it "home."
This third retreat, however, gave me a very rare glimpse into issues not as openly spoken of, simply because of their sheer emotional weight and harsh reality: I am referring to issues of racism, discrimination, prejudice, hate, injustice.
The vastly differing experiences that distinguished common human struggle and perseverance and our varying childhoods and histories were undeniably present among our group during the outset, marked by our lack of success in one icebreaker game in particular. The task was to count to twenty (or however many people there are) with every person counting one number aloud once, whenever he/she felt time was right. The game was lost if two people spoke at the same time. We played this several times throughout the day and into the night, each time listening to each other and ourselves more than the last, and each time inching closer to "winning."
Our schedule alternated between icebreaker games and teambuilding activities, as well as guided discussions and open dialogue. The opportunity to speak one's mind freely and openly, without fear of ramifications, rarely presents itself in today's world. Even more rarely is it pursued to the fullest extent. Such barriers vanished at Camp Fuller that weekend. For the first, markedly apparent time since coming to PC, I was able to not just share my experiences of discrimination and fears of being judged by appearance or religious beliefs, but also listen to the heartbreaking stories of others and see reflections of myself in their struggles and desperation.
Blinding anger engulfed me many times, sitting beside those in similar states of mind. To anyone claiming that such issues no longer exist: I invite you to listen in on the painful conversations and suppressed emotions that finally, fully came out that day; I challenge you to look into the eyes of someone treated with hate or fear in response to their race, religion, or sexual orientation, rather than their character or personality, and I dare you not to blink and uncomfortably look away; I encourage you to do everything you can, on your part within your sphere of influence, to put a much-needed end to any and all words and actions that separate us human beings from each other.
I applaud and respect my fellow "Baby Blue" freshmen and "Red Robin" upperclassmen leaders (nicknames given based on the colors of our shirts) for displaying such courage and strength in sharing so much, from their everyday experiences to their longstanding fears. I honor their pain and I carry each and every story close to my heart: they serve as a reminder for myself to promote acceptance in my everyday words and actions, to continue spreading knowledge and truth, to never forget that I stand for too much to be taken down by anything.
At the end of the night, sitting on benches encircling the bonfire after snacking down on the traditional snack of s'mores, we played the game one final time and, without fail, we won.