#9 – November Retreat – Trying to find common ground…

It all started with me trying to find common ground. Not meaning the phrase, meaning the place. Oops! I meant, “Common Ground.” The place where my first overnight retreat is located for the What’s the Story program. I told my parents, “The retreat is at the ‘Common Ground Center’ mom.” Then my mom said, “Where is that?” So then, I had to find out where it was. I found out it was in Starksboro, VT. I found out the address, and I found out what I was going to be doing. And what I did… was awesome!

So, when I got there with my friends who drove me there, our blog mates were already presenting what they found out about their issue over the last 6-8 weeks. I was kinda embarrassed to barge in like I did, when there was somebody was already presenting. But, I went ahead, got everything set up, and listened to all the other pitches. There were some really  good ones too! Then came time for my pitch.

When I heard Mr. O’Leary’s voice ask me if I wanted to go next, my stomach clenched, and my mind told me, “NO!”, but I said, “Yeah, sure,” anyway. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Of course, when I was up there, it was a little scary, everybody staring at me and all. But I think I pulled through pretty well. My topic is, of course, Lake Champlain’s pollution. When my slide was ready to present, I started.

I basically said everything on this (slides) and this (script). But when I was up there, telling everyone why I wanted them to help me, I stuttered a bit, and my knees were about to give up on me. But everything ended up all right. After I presented, we ate lunch (it was very good!) at the EcoLodge at the top of the hill that we were at the base of. We listening to a professor named Nadia, and gave us her story. It was long, but interesting as well. I really like it. After lunch, we came back down to hall at the bottom of the hill, and finished the presentations. A lot of them were interesting, some were either way, and I don’t think there was any one that I didn’t find interesting.

So after all the pitches were done, we had some free time. I don’t really remember what all I did, but I made some new friends and actually met my mentor for the first time. But now I have a different mentor. It’s a little weird, and I don’t know what the idea of it is yet. Anyway, after some free time, we kinda did some clean-up stuff, and we got settled in to our rooms that we were going to be sleeping in that night, and then we had dinner. Dinner was also very good. It was pizza! Almost everyone’s favorite (well, at least it’s mine)! At dinner, we met some potential team members. We were grouped by what kind of topic you had (Environmental (mine), gender, refugee, etc), and we ate pizza, and talked about everyone’s topics, and we talked about parallels we saw within each others’ pitches. There, I already knew that I wanted to keep my topic. So I fought for it to stay on the table (there wasn’t really a fight, everybody kinda liked my topic). After dinner, we went back down to the bottom of the hill, and we made a big circle in the hall where everyone pitched their ideas. There we actually formed the Social Action Teams, but first, we kinda talked as a big group about what everyone talked about at dinner. First, the immigration group kinda did their own thing, then went off to a different room to talk about idea. Then it was the gender issue group, and they did the same thing. Then it was refugee (I think), and again, they did the same thing. Then finally, it went to the environmental group. We talked to the people who was left about what we talked about at dinner. How we saw a bunch of common info, and the connections between our topics. We ended up going into the corner of the room to talk about it, and we decided to make our group about the pollution of Lake Champlain (whee!!!) and how invasive plants tie into that (another whee!!!). I was and still am very happy that my issue wasn’t ignored, but we also have another problem that we can fix at the same time. They call that “two birds with one stone”.

Then we told the rest of the group that we were a team now. Oh sorry! The team that I’m in consists of a girl named Brynna (she was originally doing invasive plants as her topic) and a guy named Zachariah (who originally had the decline in bee population as his topic). We, unfortunately, couldn’t find a connection between bees and the lake, so he decided to just switch over. I couldn’t have asked for a better team because everyone is awesome. We have a good base of stuff to go on for the next month until the next retreat, so hopefully that works out. Then, we had a bunch of free time where I played some Uno, then tricked some high schoolers from Middlebury with a card trick (I was the assistant), then played some other game that I forgot the name of, then I went to bed.

I woke up late this morning. I was late for breakfast, and for the morning meeting. Now that was embarrassing! Anyway, it worked out. Basically, after the morning meeting, we got our new mentors, we met with our team, and made schedules, and documents, and a group chat thing so we can connect when we are at home (it’s especially hard for me for physical meetings because I live in Shelburne, and the Brynna and Zachariah live in Middlebury). After all that, we had lunch, then we walked back down the hill to the hall. That’s where I’m at right now. Writing this post.

I see myself having a lot of fun over this month in doing blog posts and working towards fixing this issue. I hope I can be apart of our schedule, and be a contributing member to this team that I’m in. I don’t want to let my new team members down. I see myself being very busy too with this. This needs to be a high priority thing in my agenda, and it will.

I’m really glad I did this program. This is fun!!

Hey! I'm an 8th grader from Vermont. I used to live in Georgia for 7 years. I enjoy swimming, biking, reading, acting, singing, making music, listening to music, archery, and much more! I've been described as organized, kind, respectful, funny, and easy to get a long with. Along with singing and acting, I also play the Baritone Saxophone in the school band. I am currently 13 years old, but I'm am close to 14. I have 5 brothers, 1 sister, 2 nephews, 2 nieces, and over 10 cousins. It's a pretty hectic family, and I'm the youngest out of most of them. And don't forget, read my blogs, and for now, thanks for reading this!

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