Over the course of three days, 150 student leaders took to climbing walls and reflecting in journals for the three-day Be L.O.V.E.D. (“Living Our Values Every Day”) Orientation a week before school began. Designed by the Deans Team, the orientation aimed to facilitate discussions around becoming a student leader at Andover.
The main themes of the orientation were connection, courage, and teamwork, according to the Dean of Students Office. In teams of 12 or 13, students went through team building exercises, discussions around expectations as a student leader, and various scenarios often encountered by student leaders.
Students like Lesley Tilghman ’19, a Proctor, learned more about support systems for student leaders during the orientation. According to Tilghman, she also learned that a leadership position does not necessarily serve as a position of power at Andover.
“During the orientation I learned that there are so many people on campus dedicated to the success of myself and the other leaders,” said Tilghman.
Tilghman continued, “Taking on a leadership position at [Andover] doesn’t necessarily mean shouldering a burden or becoming an authority figure, but it does mean being part of the support systems of other students and letting them be part of your own support system. I certainly feel more connected to my peers, student leaders or otherwise.”
On the second day of orientation, student leaders took a trip to Thompson Island, an island in Boston Harbor. The Thompson Island trip was lead by Outward Bound, an organization focusing on outdoor experiential education for schools in the United States.
On Thompson Island, students participated in activities that fostered team-building skills. The activities included groups discussions and games involving ropes, bridges, and walls.
“There were two wires, each a couple feet off the ground, that started attached to the same tree and slowly got further and further apart. You and a partner had to use each other as balance as you move further and further apart. It seemed impossible; they simply were too far apart to make it to the end. You really had to trust yourself and your partner more than you’re scared of falling on your face,” said Chris Ward ’19, a Proctor who attended the trip.
According to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, a faculty leader on the trip, the games showed that the student leaders needed to work together with one another in order to succeed.
“We loved having the opportunity to work with a team of student leaders to work on skills for being fun, supportive, and collaborative leaders. We engaged in activities that made each one of us feel vulnerable and required us to rely on each other. We realized that we cannot achieve our individual goals alone. We need to rely on the strength of our groups,” said Elliott.
A common takeaway from the Thompson Island orientation was that the it formed a sense of community among the students. According to Prefect Riley Edsall ’20, the orientation allowed students to meet new peers and create friendships with other student leaders that they could rely on.
“Before I really didn’t know that there was almost an inner community within Andover of student leaders, but the trip to Thompson Island really helped me understand,” said Edsall.
“I think the central purpose of the orientation was to instill a greater sense of community among participants by building trust in smaller groups and stressing the importance of a support network,” wrote Proctor Sasha Carnes ’19 in an email to The Phillipian.
The final activity before the students headed back to campus was a “solo,” where they were given independent time to write and reflect back on not just the orientation, but on Andover in general.
“The solo was a good time to reflect on past years at Andover and what I wanted to bring into this upcoming year as a proctor. My group did the solos on the beach of Thompson Island, where we could see the skyline of Boston and watch the planes fly into Logan [Airport]. It was relaxing environment to reflect,” said Proctor Carter Giampetro ’19.