Freshmen branch out at retreat


Courtesy of Hayden Hedges (12)

Freshmen mingle at Victory Ranch late at night. The retreat lasted from Aug. 17-19, giving the freshmen time to get to know each other before classes started.

Molly Kirshbaum, Reporter

When Mia Soefker (12) came to St. Mary’s as a freshman, the majority of her first interactions with her grade occurred at the freshman Victory Ranch retreat. 

“Victory Ranch really helped me bust out of my shell as a new student,” Soefker said. “I was nervous, of course, but it was just the beginning of many friendships.”

On the third day of the 2022-2023 school year, the freshmen class of 2026 went on their annual trip to Victory Ranch – they, too, were nervous. 

New student Addie Hook (9) had to quickly adjust to meeting 69 new classmates. 

“I thought it was going to be hard to meet new people,” Hook said. “I was scared when they said that we weren’t going to be in cabins with people we knew.”

By the end of the trip, Hook felt more comfortable around her peers, and fellow new student Marin Thompson (9) also ended up enjoying the random cabin assignments because they provided a way to branch out. 

“I was a little nervous about cabins and to be with people I didn’t know, but now those people in my cabin are my friends,” Thompson said.

Meanwhile, returning student Audrey Stifter (9) enjoyed getting to meet her new classmates. 

“I think that the random cabin assignments were actually good because they let you talk to all the new girls,” Stifter said.

The ninth grade teachers and Victory Ranch staff planned activities such as laser tag, team-bonding games, pool and lake time and free time, helping the classmates get to know each other outside of classes and prepare for high school. 

Emery Taylor (9) found that all of the activities Victory Ranch had to offer helped the grade become more familiar with each other. 

“I liked all the team bonding, and hanging out in the cabins with my friends and new people,” Taylor said.

Thanks to the retreat, the freshman class have only just started the bonding process. According to Soefker, the current freshmen have a lot to look forward to. She said she feels like the retreat laid the foundation of the current senior class’ close friendships.

“To think that there was a time of such loneliness and fear as a freshman, to now sharing with and comforting each other’s fears about college … is really beautiful,” Soefker said. “It feels like a huge family.”