Why I'm Dressing in Disney for Patch Give 5 Day
For my first service day of the year, I'll be volunteering as an adult leader for District 99's Operation Snowball.
Every year, Patch requires its employees to spend five work days volunteering. This month, I will be traveling as an adult leader with 100 District 99 students for a two-day retreat called Operation Snowball. And oh yeah, I’ll be Disney-themed. To learn why, read on!
If Operation Snowball was a chemistry formula, it might look something like this: Snowball = (Self-Esteem + Trust + Respect + Fun + Warm Fuzzies) Community.
Snowball is a two-day retreat where District 99 students travel to a YMCA Camp and participate in team-building activities, games, workshops, skits and small group time. The program promotes a drug-free lifestyle. Each school has its own Snowball in the fall, and North and South combine for a winter Snowball.
You sleep in cabins in a remot(er) area of Illinois. You eat camp food. You play games like Electricity. You wear themed clothing (think all-blue, All-American or my group, Disney!). You say nice things to other people. A lot.
You watch skits and attend workshops that delve into the big issues of high school that we don’t normally talk about: divorce, depression, self-doubt, sexual pressure and drug use. You start having conversations with your small group about these topics. You learn from other people. You learn that you’re not alone.
Before I lose anyone who might think this sounds like a bunch of touch-feely nonsense, I want you to think back to all of the challenges high-schoolers face:
- sense of identity
- competition for the best grades, athletic performance, extracurricular involvement, college acceptance
- finding a place to belong
- the presence of alcohol, drugs, sexting, cyberbullying and bullying
- preparing for adulthood
Not a lot of things in high school are dedicated to building up your self-esteem. Snowball is. And guess what? At Snowball, building up other people is cool.
I’ve been to six Snowballs. I loved it so much I was a small group leader three times (yellow, lavender and aqua were my colors), and then a student director for my last Snowball where I helped plan the event with eight other students. I’ll be returning to Snowball as an adult leader this time for the North-South event on Feb. 24 and 25.
So how do we pack all of this awesomeness into a mere 36 hours?
A bulk of a student’s time spent at Snowball is spent with his or her small group. Each group is made up of about 15 students, two small group leaders and one or two adult leaders. The small group leaders are high school students (and past Snowball participants) who apply for the position.
Each group has a color or a theme, from blue to Disney, Country Western and Space. Small group leaders dress from head to toe in their themes. (See my photos on the right if you want to see what I mean.)
For small group leaders, the goal is to go all out in their costumes. Why? First, because it’s fun (and who doesn’t love an excuse to look ridiculous with 50 other people who also look ridiculous).
Second, it sets the tone that Snowball is about being celebrated for just being you.
Snowball may start with silly dancing and some awesome team-building games, but the event also slowly collects all of the topics that students might face but don’t normally talk about to the forefront – from sexual pressure, self-esteem, divorce, depression and suicide.
These topics are presented in skits and workshops, and then the small group leaders lead their group in processing the topics afterward. Students journal their thoughts and share with one another what they’re thinking and what they’ve experienced.
The process opens up lines of communication between students and it gives them an opportunity to learn from one another and to ultimately know that they’re not alone in the issues they’re facing.
Where else in high school does this happen?
I chose Snowball as my February Give 5 event because it’s an organization that I loved in high school and that I’m totally excited to be involved with again. Check back as I recount the days leading up to the event, and for photos when we come back!