Annual retreat offers Scholars relaxation, reconnection

September 10, 2008

By hammersmith

Though they share a record of high achievement as students and leaders in their communities, the interests of Flinn Scholars are about as varied as one could imagine. The 2008 Annual Retreat offered something for every one of them.

For the second August in a row, the Flinn Scholars Program held its yearly gathering at Lost Canyon, a group retreat facility tucked in the pine forest just outside of Williams. The retreat took place at one of the rare moments in the year when most Scholars can be in one place–near the end of summer, after many international travel/study programs have ended, just before Arizona’s universities begin their fall semesters.

“The bonding between our class was phenomenal–within a few days, we became really great friends,” said Kellie Mejdrich, a 2008 Scholar who graduated in May from Desert Vista High School and is now attending the University of Arizona. “It was nice to know that even if everything else at college was unfamiliar, you had the Flinn family waiting for you on your first day.”

This year’s retreat renewed several of the longtime traditions of the program: travel reports from Scholars who had studied in countries such as Argentina, Ghana, France, India, Namibia, Thailand, and Turkey; a talent show featuring performances on classical guitar, Native-American flute, and a trombone made of PVC pipe; and a round-robin tug-of-war competition between the four classes of Scholars–won, as is usually the case, by the sophomores.

The retreat also gave Scholars the chance to dabble in new pursuits, via workshops that taught tango dancing, surrealist poetry writing, the basics of fencing, and the artistic design of traditional Apache shields. Both the poetry and fencing workshops were led by alumni Flinn Scholars.

Scholars fencingThen there were the amenities that Lost Canyon offered the group: wide-open athletic fields and well-appointed cabins, a swimming pool with dual water slides, a ropes course suspended high among the trees, and a zip line that sent airborne Scholars a quarter of a mile down a hillside and skimming across a pond.

On the third day of the retreat, Scholars were given an introduction to one of the program’s enrichment elements: a public-policy seminar series that acquaints them with some of the people, ideas, and issues that most profoundly impact life in Arizona. This year the seminar series focuses on water in Arizona–its history, its science, its policy, and its politics. To kick off the seminar series, Scholars at the retreat visited a site near the headwaters of the Verde River, where they met with watershed experts Abe Springer and Mark Holmes to learn about the challenges facing the Verde River’s Active Management Areas.

Perhaps the most-cherished aspect of the retreat, though, was the opportunity that Mejdrich noted for Scholars to spend time together–returned travelers comparing notes, new Scholars getting to know each other outside of the interview setting, upperclassmen imparting wisdom about the benefits of majoring in global studies or the perils of procrastinating on an honors thesis.

For 2008 Scholar Chase Gammon, a graduate of Trevor Browne High School, the retreat proved an excellent lead-in to his first year at Arizona State University.

“Never in my life have been around so many brilliant and talented people at one time,” Gammon said. “And that’s just the freshmen class. With a group like this, there is little we cannot accomplish.”

Joanna Yang, a Scholar at ASU who graduated with Mejdrich from Desert Vista, shared Gammon’s assessment.

“The people that I came into contact with and talked to simply blew me away. There’s something to be said about having a group like Flinn together for three days in the Flagstaff woods–the mix of different passions truly merged to create a larger whole.”

For more information:

Apply now for 2009 Flinn Scholarship

2008 Annual Retreat highlights (YouTube)

Flinn Scholars blog