Lily Project sponsors spring retreat

By Tressa Versteeg

For ten seniors, this spring break was spent off the coast of Washington for “a chance to pause before jumping off from Macalester.” These students, Hector Pasual Alvarez, Raina Fox, Sonia Hazard, Jessie Light, Mara MacKinnon, Katyana Melic, Evan Mitchell, Hillary Mohaupt, Periangelo Rossi and Elissa Vinnik, were selected by the Lilly Project to spend five days at the Whidbey Institute for Earth, Spirit and the Human Future. The retreat is meant to help students regroup and think about their future before they are thrown in to the real world, according to Chaplain Lucy Forster-Smith, who is one of the diectors of the project.

“[The purpose of the retreat] is to enable a small group of seniors to begin to make that transition from Macalester into the world, and do it in an intentional way,” she said. “We need to stop and think about where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

The Lilly Project has been sending students on this retreat for eight years. Sharon Daloz-Parks, a Whidbey staff member, has been a major part of this tradition. She encouraged the Lilly Project to begin this retreat and inspired the Lives of Commitment program with her book “Commitment Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World.”

Forster-Smith also noted that Whidbey island’s isolation and unfamiliarity allows students to “see things with fresh eyes” and engage in the type of deep-thinking conversations that would benefit them.

Students completed a high-ropes course, engaged in discussions, listened to speakers and ventured into their natural surrounding during the retreat. For Forster-Smith one of the best experiences was a personal affirmation made by the students preceding a jump off of a 40 foot telephone pole.

“[The jump] was a metaphor for the whole retreat. ‘I’m going to move from where I am right into the future.’ It is very powerful,” she said.

Pasual Alvarez said the experience was worth while.

“It gave us a chance to stop in the middle of senior-year chaos to think and reflect about what these past four years have meant and what we want to do with your lives after graduation,” he said. “I applied because I wanted some time for reflection. It is very important to pause and ask yourself what this business we call life means.