Stevenson’s Operation Snowball pushes leadership skills, self awareness
Updated: April 22, 2013 2:45AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — Stevenson High School’s Operation Snowball (OS) is not readily labeled as a particular type of event by its organizers because its effects vary from student to student.
Held at more than 150 accredited chapters throughout Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, Poland, Lithuania and Columbia, OS is a program that provides opportunities for youth and adult participants to collaborate in a way that helps create awareness about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, as well as prevent it.
Program sponsors Sara Cahill, Michael Cullen and Stephanie Weiss said that all Stevenson High School students are invited to sign up for the school’s spring retreat, which runs from March 15 – 17 at YMCA Camp MacLean in Burlington, Wisc.
Throughout the weekend, veteran OS students and adult staff members will teach students about how important it is to make healthy choices, take smart risks and build and maintain a high self-esteem
But Cullen said that the retreat teaches even more than that.
“It doesn’t just give the teens skills to lead healthy lives and make healthy lifestyle choices; it also gives them leadership skills and coping skills, as well as others they will carry with them beyond high school,” Cullen said.
Weiss, a former SHS student and current teacher at the school, said that she’s been involved in almost every facet of the SHS chapter’s program in the years since she graduated high school.
“I got involved with it as a sophomore at Stevenson, and it’s really shaped a lot of who I am and is a lot of the reason I’m in leadership roles,” Weiss said.
Taking a weekend off from their oftentimes stressful high school environment to spend time at a place that’s physically far away from the source of those feelings is the kind of experience Weiss said many students could use to help them get a firmer grasp on who they are and what they want from life.
“They are here a lot: They are heavily involved in activities and they are in school for school and to participate in extracurriculars,” Cahill said. “It’s good to take them away from that so that it’s not a constant reminder and it’s not overshadowing what they are there to do.”
Upon arrival, students will check in, pick up their sleeping cabin assignments, name badges and t-shirts. Teen staff will lead the weekend of games, discussions and activities, and students will be kept busy until bedtime each day.
Throughout the duration of their 48-hour weekend experience in Burlington, Wisc., SHS students will have team discussions and activities to learn more about one another and participate in team-building activities that will teach them how to better work together and respect their different abilities.
Students will also learn how to step out of their comfort zones by making healthy decisions to try something new.
A popular ongoing activity at the retreat is for students to show others their appreciation for them by giving them “warm fuzzy” pieces of yarn to tie to their necklaces. Weiss said students feel good when they wear the necklace later and are reminded of all the people that appreciated them.
New this year is the Avalanche program, which is exclusive to juniors and seniors and focuses more heavily on leadership roles, in addition to the lessons taught from OS.
The deadline to sign up for the retreat is March 1. For more information, visit http://www.d125.org/operation_snowball/