The green Collegiate vans pulled up in front of the field house at the Robins campus. The excited, chattering 7th grade girls piled out, equipped with towels, backpacks, and balls of colorful yarn. Everyone gathered in the turf room, ready to commence the day’s activities.
Community: Challenges and Leadership, widely known by its abbreviation CCL, is a day-long gathering where 7th graders complete various team building and leadership exercises. The 7th grade girls participated in CCL on Monday, September 28, while the boys went on Wednesday, September 30. Each advisory does activities together throughout the day in order to grow closer and become better leaders, particularly in community service. CCL, described by Kate P. (‘21) as “eventful,” began with a spirited game of Rock, Paper, Scissors in the turf room, where chains would form after each student lost a round until one grade-wide winner was crowned. Next, Middle School Student Activities Coordinator Suzanne Fleming* shared a personal story of how service and the positive attitudes of others has positively impacted her life, so that the 7th graders would be able to fully understand the value of helping others in the Richmond community. Afterwards, everyone headed outside and played a quick, spirited warm-up game before each advisory split in half to play “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” This game involved working together as a group to carry a stuffed animal from one point to another, but without allowing the “it” to figure out who was holding the animal at any given time. After a quick discussion about the strategies, highlights, and difficulties of the game, two senior leaders shared their own personal stories with each advisory. Selected to help facilitate
and lead activities, each of six total seniors talked about a time when they challenged a belief, broke a rule and learned from it, or were pushed outside of their comfort zone, specifically while doing service projects. The stories were shared in order to help the 7th graders realize the importance and difficulties of community service, as this year they will be visiting a service site for a few hours each week. The tales included accounts of working as a camp counselor in the summer, volunteering at a retirement home, skipping mandatory after-school study hall, and working at a local school for children with autism. Dalton Ruh (‘16), a senior leader, said that sharing his story “was a good opportunity to open up about tough decisions and moral values,” adding that he thought that the 7th graders enjoyed the stories and “used them for building blocks for the rest of the day.”
The next activity, called “Support Web”, involved working as a team to weave a web out of balls of yarn that the students had made. Eventually, the yarn was so tightly intertwined that each 7th grader got the chance to be lifted into the air by their classmates in a trust-building exercise. Ella G. (‘21) thought that this activity “was really fun” and said that “it was cool the way the yarn rope looked afterwards, and it was fun that we got to ride in it.” The finished project of Support Web served as a symbol for the
strength and the importance of making connections with people within the Collegiate community as well as around Richmond. The last activity of the day was called “The Crossing” and involved a made-up scenario where the girls needed to cross a ‘river’ on a set of frisbees, without touching the water or talking to their peers. This was one of the more popular activities, but was very challenging. Mia K. (‘21) mentioned the difficulties of “having to communicate without words,” which was a struggle for her team. After a group debrief and an advisory discussion of tough choices that 7th graders often face and their possible solutions, the vans were reloaded and the 7th graders returned to school, having finished the day’s challenges.
CCL, described by Maddie B. (‘21) as “fun” and “exciting,” is an important part of the Middle School Service Learning Curriculum, which focuses on helping students create connections, make new relationships, and build a love of service and deeper understanding of the world. Led by Middle School Guidance Counselor Sally Chambers, the activities and discussions of CCL are designed to help the students think about service and its significance in their lives in a more in-depth way, as well as to help develop leadership skills that are beneficial for each person going forward. When asked about her favorite part of CCL, Ella G. (‘21) said that she thinks “it’s cool that we all get to know each other better”. Maddie B. (‘21) also mentioned that she enjoyed getting to know her advisory better, and liked that they got to “hang out more because we don’t really get to hang out during the year.”
*Full disclosure: Suzanne Fleming is the author’s mother.