On a 500-acre ranch an hour-and-a-half from Tampa, for 48 hours over two mid-February nights with no cell phones or electricity or showers, cooking meals over an open fire and sleeping in tents, the Jesuit High School students engaged in the Leadership Retreat did just that – become better leaders.
The 13 sophomores took part in the school's fifth experiential Leadership Retreat on Feb. 14-16 at Pallardy Ranch in Myakka City. The retreat was coordinated by Jesuit's Director of Student Activities, Carmelo LoSauro '10, chaperoned by the moderator of the Outdoorsman Society Club, theology teacher David Mammola, and led by COR Expeditions, a Catholic Outdoor Leadership Program of Wyoming Catholic College (wyomingcatholic.org/cor-expeditions).
After arriving the afternoon of Fri. Feb. 14, the students first learned about the characteristics of leaders. They self-evaluated and were evaluated by their peers in small groups to determine what leadership traits they possessed, such as communicative, persistent, dependable, conscientious, and composed. Thirteen traits were identified, and three had to be chosen as strengths, three as weaknesses for every classmate evaluated. Each student was identified as one of four styles: Driver, Spontaneous Motivator, Architect/Analyst, and Relationship Expert. They explored ways to improve within their leadership style, and to develop traits in another style that could complement their primary style.
They also learned about slacklines, compasses, and other outdoor tools that would comprise a big part of the mental and physical challenges for each team on the second day. Spread far and wide over the 500 acres, in the woods and in sparse clearings, were dozens of team-oriented, vexing challenges (many can be viewed in the photo slideshow below) that required leadership, and mental and physical agility, to complete successfully.
Divided into two teams, each one led by a COR guide, the they set off separately for five hours during the afternoon of the second day to accomplish each challenge. A different team leader or leaders took charge at each new challenge, and the COR guide evaluated/graded each team at every challenge, on key elements such as how well they planned and communicated, how the leader(s) performed, and how they executed, adjusted, and (hopefully) completed the challenge.
After each challenge, there was a group discussion to reflect on their performance. The students reviewed what had transpired, what went well, what didn't, what should have been done differently, what could be improved, etc. One of the most difficult leadership activities challenged the students to find a way to get everyone on their team over a 10.5-foot wall that had been set up deep in the woods. Another required a leader to direct his entire group of blindfolded team members to accomplish a complicated task that required precise coordination.
On the morning of the third day, they packed everything up and returned to Tampa as young men with a better perspective on their leadership style, how to accomplish complex tasks as a team, how to achieve group goals with limited resources, and with an understanding of how to be a better leader.
Participating in the experiential Leadership Retreat were sophomores Ethan Alvare, Owen Andress, Adrian Cancio Rodriguez, Hector Duarte, Brody Grissom, Will Iler, Cam James, Lawson McLeod, Ezra Moros, Gozy Okeke, Wayne Quin, Antonio Troncoso, and Zander vanBelzen.
Click below to view a photo slideshow: