The First Inaugural Engaged Leadership Retreat took place this last weekend on Friday, March 29th and Saturday, March 30th. Generously funded by an anonymous gift, our endowed Sewanee Military Academy Leadership Development Fund, and a grant from The Templeton World Charity Foundation,  the Engaged Leadership Retreat was the first overnight student leadership retreat of its kind at SAS which brought together the outgoing Proctors and the incoming Proctors for an overnight trip filled with leadership training, group bonding, and succession planning. The following was written by incoming Proctor, Margeaux Pierson, a boarding student from New Orleans, Louisiana:

"On the weekend of March 29th and 30th, our current Proctors and upcoming Proctors for the 2024-25 school year went on a retreat to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Here, we bonded over many activities and were able to get a sneak peek into the lives of a Proctor. Excitement has been building up for weeks and expectations were not let down. With some great Earth Day plans, a couple newfound inside jokes, and countless memories made, the Engaged Leadership Retreat was definitely a success.

We left for Gatlinburg Friday afternoon and arrived around dinner time. The house was beautiful with an amazing view. The porch sat above what felt like the entire state of Tennessee. When we got to the cabin, all of us, with the same idea, ran to the game room. We could have entertained ourselves there for days. However, time had other plans; we had to make dinner. The current Proctors worked together to make tacos while the upcoming Proctors settled in. The tacos were beyond compare, as to be expected from our incomparable Proctors.

After dinner, we had a meeting to discuss plans for the night before Earth Day. Not only were we able to get the job done, but we were also able to see how the current Proctors work together and how the upcoming proctors will work together next year. One upcoming Proctor, Sarah Maleak,  a boarding student from Gallatin, Tennessee, states, “This experience allowed me to learn from the current Proctors, how to balance and work together with my future Proctors. It also allowed us a chance to prepare and practice for the upcoming year.” We were able to see that with a large group of leaders, we may experience bumps in the road when we disagree on ideas. Although thirteen big personalities might seem to clash more often than not, we also saw that with such an already close knit group of people, we will be able to work it through. We came up with a set plan and continued with “The Animal Game”. In this game, someone stood in the middle of a circle with their eyes closed, pointed at someone, gave them an animal sound to make, and tried to guess who made the sound. A group of high schoolers has never laughed so much at such stupidity. Yet even then, with a children's game, we were having the time of our lives together.

The highlight of the trip was going to Dollywood Saturday morning. The upcoming Proctors made some pancakes. While we are still learning to be as good of cooks as our current Proctors, those pancakes were pretty outstanding. After eating breakfast, we left for Dollywood, where we spent the rest of our day. Together, we were able to relieve any school stress and enjoy ourselves while also admiring our beloved Dolly Parton. Current Proctor President describes, “It was great to not only be able to hang out with my friends, but with those I don’t normally see. I was honored to see how the juniors act as a unit and individually, and get a sneak peek into how they might work together next year. Though the roller coasters and ice cream would have made the trip worth it,” Riding rides together was not where the fun stopped. We walked about joking around half of our time there. Truly, the people we went to Dollywood with were more fun than Dollywood itself.

The main thing we learned from this retreat was the size of the shoes we have to fill next year: extra large. Throughout the year, we have been able to admire the current Proctors hard work, but spending the weekend with them showed us their true unparalleled community they have built together. Along with seeing their level of compassion and leadership, we also learned that we, too, can achieve this through working together and caring for each other as they do."