Awareness Weekend 2019


Jessica Woldt, Staff Reporter

The 16th Annual Awareness Weekend started at 3:30 pm on Friday, November 18th, lasting until 10 pm on Saturday. We first signed into the rooms that we would sleep in and looked at our family groups. I didn’t know anybody in my family group. In the beginning, Mr. McGowan held a little speech and then the first speaker, Steven Prescott, performed. He told us his story of how he almost had to go to prison and he had to deal with hard stuff like poverty and not having a father. He also danced, which was very touching. 

Next, we went into our family groups and it was very awkward at first. But after a while we got more comfortable with each other. Mr. Tomasi and the senior facilitator Justin Bethea, were both in my group and they were great because they made everything less awkward and helped us be more open. For the first break we all got balls of strings to hang around our neck (called puffs). Every time you hugged somebody you would put your string on their necklace and they would do the same. So we all walked around in the hallways and hugged each other. This exercise was really cute and touching. It gave a feeling of community and that you’re not alone.

Later in the evening we all ate dinner which tasted really good. Now it was the students time to tell their story. I thought it was very brave of the students to tell their story. You always hear and read about those terrible things that happen to people but actually having somebody in front of you, that you may even know, is a totally different feeling. That those terrible things happen to people that you see in your day to day life is kind of scary. 

After sharing, we had a break where we could do whatever we wanted. A lot of people went to the gym to play volleyball. At 11:30 pm we did the Cross the Line exercise. This was one of my highlights of Awareness Weekend. It was very interesting to do it and the atmosphere in the gym was very special. It’s hard to describe but I felt like it was happy and sad at the same time. We finished at 1:00 in the morning and I had completely lost track of time. I didn’t expect it to be so late already. Everybody finally got ready for bed. One of the sleeping rooms became the party room and everybody danced in there. Between 2:00-3:00 am everybody went to sleep. 

We got up the next morning for breakfast at 7:30. On this day two speakers came, a tap dancer and Black Jack. Black Jack, the basketball player, was really interesting and funny. Watching his Netflix episode and then seeing him talk was very cool– especially when we went to the gym and he challenged the basketball players, which was hilarious. None of them made even one shot and the last one got all of them. It felt crazy how everyone flipped out after he made five shots in a row. We had a few family group meetings that day and you could see the progress in the group. Everybody started getting comfortable with each other and becoming friends. 

Through Awareness Weekend I made a few good friends whom I probably would’ve never talked to before. We had the chance to tell our stories if we wanted to. I thought it was really brave of the people who told their story. The last part of our time together was when each family group performed a skit that summarized their whole Awareness Weekend experience. The skits were really funny and were the perfect end for Awareness Weekend. All in all, I think Awareness Weekend was a great experience and it was a good opportunity to meet new people.