On October 25th, I was given the opportunity to attend the Office of Multicultural Life’s (OML) annual retreat. My experience working with multicultural students could not have prepared me for what was about to happen at Split Rock Resort. This is my first year here at Saint Joseph’s University, and the OML retreat was my first glimpse of student life on campus. OML hosts a retreat every year for students here at SJU. This event is open to all members of the SJU community; with many students returning year after year.
I entered the resort knowing only a few students, but that quickly changed within a few hours of facilitating the first workshop. We began with on open discussion & during this time students were encouraged to discuss several aspects of their individual diversity. The students attending the retreat were more engaged than any group I had ever worked with. Shockingly enough, there was no texting, tweeting or any distraction present in the room. Not only were the students actively listening, but also offering advice based on their personal experiences.
The great thing about the retreat is that although Natalie Walker (OML Program Coordinator) oversees the group, the students are encouraged to lead discussions and tackle several aspects of diversity head-on. When asked to describe his experience with OML, sophomore Eric A. said “it feels good to know there’s a whole community of people behind you.” Like Eric, the students in OML are not just a part of an organization but members of a family that encourages expression of diversity in all forms.
The next workshop dared students to reveal even more information about their past experiences. The Let’s Talk About Privilege session required everyone to start on a single line in the room, students were then asked to move forward if the spoken privilege applied to them. Durrell, a student and aspiring photographer defined privilege as “one group of people holding an unearned advantage.” Those privileges include having a home and financial stability, but also living essentials like having daily meals. During the exercise the group was asked questions that revealed economic hardships, loss of a loved one, and past destitutions. While the questions challenged students to expose themselves, there was an outstanding blanket of support throughout the room.
As a first-generation college student, I am aware of just how effective resources – like the OML – can be for students. I have never experienced a group of students so willing to disclose their personal stories. Ultimately this helped strengthen their interpersonal connections. I have never been more inspired by a group of students. I am honored to have had to opportunity to work with this group; the amount of potential apparent in the OML students validates the hard work I do as an Admissions Counselor for Multicultural Recruitment.
Darrell Marrow is in his first year as an Admissions Counselor for Multicultural Recruitment. He works with students from Southern New Jersey, the Jersey shore & all of the Southern states (except for Florida & Louisiana). Darrell was raised in Philadelphia, and is excited to recruit in NJ & his distant territories. Follow him on Twitter!