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The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Connecting, Reflecting, and Thriving

Teachers and Students React to the Sophomore Retreat
Photo credit: Dylan Wright
Sophmores take on the challenges at their retreat.

At the beginning of every new school year, the sophomore class goes on a full-grade retreat. This year’s retreat was full of changes aimed at improving the student experiences. The two main goals for this trip were to have a growth mindset and to get to know yourself better. This year, the sophomores did exactly that. 

Upper School Integrated Learning and Information Sciences teacher and Sophomore Grade Head, Brianna Ifft, does a lot of the planning for the sophomore retreat. She constantly tries to find and create new ways to improve the retreat for the students and teachers. While the retreat was only a few days long, that didn’t stop her from arranging activities and surprises to better the sophomores’ experience. 

After having planned and experienced this retreat, Ifft said she has gained a good understanding of its purpose. In addition to reinforcing the themes for this year, “the retreat allows more time and space for the 10th-grade students to just make memories with each other and bond with each other,” Ifft said.

While a trip of only three days may not appear to be that complicated, a lot of time and effort goes into planning retreats, according to Ifft. She spent many hours during the summer planning alongside Upper School science teacher and Sophomore Grade Head Xiao Zhang and Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno. “Mr. Zhang and I worked throughout the summer to get the activities and transportation solidified.” 

“We also started working on the groupings, the itinerary, and all of that.” Ifft said. “And then Mr. Bruno this year handled the food, which we’re super-thankful for.”

Upper School history teacher Kevin Conlon has attended 10 sophomore retreats over the course of his 26 years teaching at Parker. He has experienced many highs and lows throughout these retreats and has seen many of the changes and their impact on the retreat experience. 

Last year, the chaperones and students were unhappy with the food situation, so this year, “one notable change was that the food was way better. And it was the first time I took the train,” said Conlon. 

Due to the high rates of COVID-19 in the past couple of years, Amtrak reduced the number of trains running to Carbondale. This forced the sophomores to take a seven-hour bus ride.

Sophomore Felix Farkas has been on all five of the Class of 2026’s retreats so far. “I would rank this retreat third because it was a lot better than I was expecting,” he said. “ I liked the activities more than some of the other retreats.”

Although many of the sophomores were already familiar with their classmates, this didn’t stop them from having fun and enjoying creating new connections with other students. 

Mariya Melikhova is a new-to-Parker sophomore.. Although she only had one full week of school before the retreat, “I felt really good [about the retreat] because I was very excited to go on different activities,” Melikhova said. “On the retreat, I talked almost to everyone, and now I have a better understanding of the people at Parker.” She was able to connect with other students and create many new friendships with her classmates.

Ifft is committed to creating the best possible retreats she can for future sophomores. She has already thought of many changes that she feels can be implemented next year to make it a more enjoyable experience. 

“I had an idea where their teams kind of collected points throughout the activities to try to see which team won,” Ifft said. “I think that would be a fun way to incorporate that for next year.”

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About the Contributor
Roshun Murthy, Staff Writer
Roshun Murthy is a sophomore who's excited for his first year of writing for "The Weekly" as a staff writer. Outside of "The Weekly" he enjoys answering questions for the Scholastic Bowl team and playing tennis for the Parker team.