The HIGH-LIght of My Summer


Emily Christ, Marketing Director, Staff Writer

From July 18th to 25th I spent a week at the Monsignor O’Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland, and it was simultaneously the best and worst week of my life. I attended the High School Leadership Institute, better known as High-Li, run by the Archdiocese of Baltimore through my home parish, Immaculate Conception. The purpose of the week was to enhance my leadership skills while growing closer to God and creating new relationships.

At High-Li there are two leadership tracks: Acts 29 and Emmaus. I was in the Acts 29 track that specialized in prophetic formal leadership. Throughout the week, in a small group, I had to plan community bonding time and a formal house meeting. The Emmaus track specialized in peer ministry and planned prayer services and warmers or ice breakers. Tim Olivella, who participated in the Emmaus track, described his favorite warmer, “One of our favorite warmers was “Ball is Life.” Each player wrote down three facts about themselves on a piece of paper and crumbled it up, then threw it across the room. Next everyone picked up a new piece of paper and tried to guess who it was based on the facts. It was a lot of fun!” All the High-Li participants also had to write a speech to perform and were given a reading to perform as well. The readings were all random; I had a poem by Mary Oliver and my friend had a Cal Ripken speech. The readings helped me to practice my public speaking and, therefore, helped me when it came time to give my speech. There were three speech topics: a personal witness talk, a prophet in your life, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wrote a personal witness talk on my Confirmation experience. My friend Molly also did a witness talk. She said, “When it came time to read my witness talk, I had to make a million corrections for the better, and I discovered that to give a successful witness talk, you need to love your topic.” I am happy to say I passed both my speech and reading on my first try.

You may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like that much work considering I was in a small group for half of it, but trust me, it was. We didn’t just work on the readings or track assignments, we also had presentations throughout the day and other commitments such as house committees like clean-up or round-up.  We had about two hours a day to work on four things at once. Sometimes I even had to get up before breakfast to work on my assignments. I was also a part of five different groups, and when you just meet everyone, it’s pretty hard to keep track. And on top of all the work, we had to wake up at 7:30 every morning! It took me a couple days to get used to, considering I had been sleeping in until around 10 during the weeks prior.

This may sound insane, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I made life-long relationships and memories with great people. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I was terrified to go to High-Li. I knew absolutely no one and am not a very confident person. But as soon as I got there, I knew the week was going to be great; I realized everyone was in the same situation, and everyone was so welcoming. As of now, it has been a month since High-Li, and I have continued to communicate with my new friends and hang out with them quite often. I also became a more confident leader, and my public speaking skills improved immensely. Throughout the week, I strengthened my relationship with God through prayer and discussing my faith. Even though High-Li was extremely stressful and arguably the toughest week of my life, it was definitely the High-Light of my summer.