By: Juliana Scherer
This past May, Silver Lining Mentoring youth participated in a weekend retreat in Provincetown, MA. For the third year in a row, Felipe Lara and SLM Board Member Tom Shirk warmly welcomed us to their award-winning bed and breakfast, and to the Ptown community. The now traditional SLM Ptown Youth Retreat has two objectives: to enjoy a fun and relaxing weekend in Ptown, and to develop youth voice and community through participation in workshops and activities.
We are incredibly grateful to the White Porch Inn, and to the Ptown community restaurant and business owners for hosting us in luxurious accommodations, feeding us so many delicious meals and ensuring our retreat was truly fun and relaxing. SLM youth got to get out of the city, take a break from work and school (although late night studying continued, and when you’re a manager, sometimes you have to take a call), and enjoy a brief respite from the challenges of day to day life in early adulthood.
The theme of the 2018 retreat, “Identity, Connection and Gratitude,” reflected input gathered in Youth Advisory Board activities over the past year, and SLM’s core values of Cultural Responsiveness, Innovation, Gratitude, Commitment and Community. Youth prepared for the retreat by considering the theme, and taking pictures related to their interpretations of identity, connection and gratitude. They arrived ready to speak up, listen to each other and challenge themselves in workshops and activities.
To delve into the theme, we used various forms of creative expression, including photography, group discussion, sculpture and writing. During the workshops, the group, and the art supplies were spread out in the dining room, on the porch and on the beach. Young people explored aspects of their identity, and spoke in the group about their relationships to various parts of their identities. They shared photos from their lives that pertained to their experiences of interpersonal connections. They engaged in rich discussions about friendships and relationships, trust and loss. They watched videos, shared self-care strategies, and wrote letters to younger youth as part of their work on gratitude.
Outside of workshops, we took advantage of the gorgeous pre-season weather, and the warm welcome from the Ptown community. We enjoyed sunset dinners, afternoon ice cream, walks on the beach, late night chats, bike rides, a dune tour, a campfire, and s’mores!
As a program coordinator facilitating the retreat, my favorite, and most memorable moments were those where I had nothing to do with facilitating. It was a joy and a privilege to witness young people connecting with each other, some for the first time since the retreat last year, and some for the first time ever. I saw them take risks and open up to each other, call each other out and hold each other accountable to our community agreement. I saw them appreciate and validate each other, and share stories that might not have been shared in any other context. I am left with gratitude for the larger SLM community, whose efforts and willingness to invest in foster youth, made it possible for this particular group of young people to come together for a truly unique weekend of fun and community building.