Reprinted with permission from the Daily News

Conga line

Students form a conga line in Bethlehem Academy’s gymnasium Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Cassie Kratt)

Respect is a seven-lettered word with a whole lot of meaning behind it.  Bethlehem Academy’s ninth graders participated in a day-long Youth Frontiers Respect Retreat Tuesday sponsored by the Rotary Club of Faribault.  BA Mission Integration Coordinator Cassie Kratt said students spent the day engaged with their peers. Youth Frontiers’ mission is to provide schools with experiences that inspire character, civility and community, Kratt said.  The Rotary Club of Faribault sponsored the retreat. Youth Frontiers leaders leading students in activities and serious discussions designed to empower students to respect themselves and others more, and engage bystanders to stand up for respect, according to Kratt.

 Youth Frontiers leaders were aided by BA student leaders: seniors Aiden Tobin, Katie Seidel, Henry Schoolmeesters and Madelyn Bauer, along with juniors Karlie DeGrood and Charlie King.  Leaders led students in ice-breaker games, contests, singing and dancing. The games were designed to get students comfortable enough with each other to step out of what might be their comfort zone.

Burping contest

Bethlehem Academy ninth grade student Will Parrish competes in a burping contest. The games were designed to get students comfortable enough with each other and to step out of their comfort zone. (Photo courtesy of Cassie Kratt)

Life talks were also incorporated in the retreat. They used personal stories, Kratt said, to help students learn to respect themselves and others as they develop their own identities. “The goal was to challenge students to take a look at how they view themselves and others and how to show more respect and love to both,” Kratt said.  The retreat wrapped up with a Respect Card activity. Students were challenged to commit to choosing one of three respect choices for the remainder of the year: Respect yourself, Respect others, Stand up (for others).

Holding retreats at BA is something that’s become a tradition, as Kratt said every grade goes on at some point in the year.  “One of the pillars of our school is community, this retreat focuses on that pillar,” Kratt said. “Or that topic, it’s just an opportunity for the class to bond and learn and form a community for after their retreat.”  Of the benefits that come along with students participating in these types of retreats, Kratt said one main benefit is how students learn about building character and community.  “They take what they learned in the retreat, and apply it to school and life beyond once the retreat wraps up,” Kratt said.

Group photo of four ninth graders

Bethlehem Academy ninth graders, pictured from left, Anna Cohen, Genevieve Donahue, Anna Tobin and Anna DeMars, participated in the Respect Retreat with their fellow classmates. (Michelle Vlasak/

A refresher on respect

While learning about respect wasn’t a new concept for the ninth-grade class, students Anna DeMars, Genevieve Donahue, Anna Tobin and Anna Cohen agreed it was a nice refresher, and leaders did a good job explaining different ways to show respect.

” It gave us a deeper look into what respect is,” DeMars said. “And the three ways you can show it by respecting yourself, others, and standing up for respect. [Youth Frontiers’ leaders] did a good job not only relating it to our lives, but also making it fun.”  Tobin said the retreat was beneficial in many ways, especially because it helped the ninth-grade class bond.  ” We grew up with these people, and now once we get to high school it will get harder as we go,” Tobin said. “It’s good to have others by your side, and get to know your classmates better. It doesn’t matter if you’re best friends or not.”

It was imperative students come to the retreat in the morning with an open mind, because Tobin said if students went in with a negative mindset, they likely wouldn’t enjoy it. She saw it as an opportunity to spend the day with her classmates, where they learned how to be better people.  Cohen added the leaders intertwined fun activities with lessons, so students were able to stay engaged throughout the whole day.

Student leaders

Youth Frontiers leaders were aided by BA student leaders: seniors Aiden Tobin, Katie Seidel, Henry Schoolmeesters and Madelyn Bauer, along with juniors Karlie DeGrood and Charlie King. Pictured, DeGrood waves her hand up in the air. (Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Academy)

Of the day’s activities, lessons and games, DeMars said one activity towards the end of the retreat was her favorite. She said they had time to sit in a circle and write one goal, and a place to improve, on a note card. Some students also stood up and shared their goals with others.  ”It was nice to hear what others had to say,” DeMars said. “You were able to make connections with others, which brings us closer together as a class.”

Donahue liked the portion of the day where they sang together, and Tobin enjoyed the one-on-one time with small groups the most. Cohen said her favorite part was when they performed skits with small groups, where some students sang, and others rapped. Of the skits, Tobin said it brought out other people’s talents they normally wouldn’t see.

Thumb war

Bethlehem Academy ninth graders played a game of thumb war during the Youth Frontiers Respect Retreat sponsored by the Faribault Rotary Club. (Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Academy)

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128. ©Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.