Now in its third decade, the Eighth Grade Leadership Retreat is a capstone experience for Out-of-Door’s middle schoolers. Click to see photos.
Originally created as a way for eighth grade students to come together as a class, the program is intended to enhance leadership skills and promote responsibility. During this year’s retreat held both on the Uihlein Campus and at DaySpring Conference Center in Parrish, a multitude of activities created opportunities for introspection, team building, and strengthening group cohesiveness.
Mrs. Kathy Dozier, who has taught at Out-of-Door for upwards of 30 years, has personally witnessed the evolution of the program having participated in more than 20 Leadership outings. She loves to watch the students build camaraderie and self confidence as they work together to create solutions to obstacles and challenge themselves on the low ropes and high ropes courses.
“The tradition of Leadership Camp began in the 90s, prior to the creation of the Upper School, when eighth grade was the highest level of the school. The purpose then was to instill leadership in the eighth grade class by teaching them to work together as a team and to become leaders of the school,” said Mrs. Dozier.
“Although the school has changed considerably since then, the purpose is still the same–to instill teamwork and leadership skills in the eighth grade, now the leaders of the Middle School. Providing an avenue for new students to become acquainted with their classmates and helping all advisory groups to bond as a group and with their advisor are additional, incredible benefits of the program. At the end of our time at DaySpring, it is always gratifying to see the students thriving and working together–this is why I love this program and hope that it will continue as an ODA tradition.”
“We all bonded and now we’re all friends. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Katya Sommers ’26. “I think that these activities helped build up our teamwork skills and our confidence. Now when we work in groups in class, I think people will be more confident in sharing their ideas with each other.”
Each year Mrs. Dozier uses the lessons the students learn during the program to remind them of their strength and ability to persevere as they face challenges and set goals throughout the school year. “Getting kids to have enough confidence to go just a bit beyond their comfort level can be a great motivator inside as well as outside the classroom,” she said.