On the road again

After COVID-19 kept grade-level retreats to an online experience, students went out and about the week of Oct. 11


Sunny Lu/Spectrum

Ninth graders gather for a photo on the Colorado River trip the week of Oct. 11. Grade-level retreats resumed after a year of being online.

Annual grade-level retreats resumed after a year of being online. On Monday, Oct. 11, 7th, 8th and 9th graders departed on various retreat trips. This year, 7th graders went on different day trips throughout Los Angeles, 8th graders spent three nights and four days on Catalina Island, and 9th graders canoed on the Colorado River for three nights and four days.
“Retreat aims to build bonds amongst students,” Seventh Grade Dean Emily Reola said. “And in particular for 7th grade, they’re coming from so many different sending schools, and the same for 9th grade. We have so many new students that are coming into our community, I think it’s a really important experience to step away from academics and to really give them a chance to bond.”
Seventh graders this year visited local spots in Los Angeles. Students stayed at school and worked on grade level bonding, completed a scavenger hunt in Downtown Los Angeles, visited the California Science Center and completed a series of ropes courses.
Science teacher Daniella Ellingson, a chaperone for 7th grade retreat, said this trip is different from 7th grade retreats in the past, where students would take an overnight trip to El Capitan. The Naturalists at Large program that runs the retreat had lost many employees due to coronavirus, and the program didn’t have enough naturalists for 7th grade retreat.
Charlotte Dewitt ’27, who went on various day trips with her classmates during retreat week, greatly enjoyed retreat this year.
“I think retreat lets us bond with our classmates and get to know the faculty and our teachers,” Dewitt said. “I also got to know a lot of people that I haven’t met. I liked having day trips and I think having an overnight retreat would be worse because you’re just getting to know people in a different space and you’re getting closer with them even without an overnight trip.”
Eighth graders visited Catalina Island where they spent three nights and four days bonding with their classmates over snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and more.
Joya Roy ’26, who had a different experience from Dewitt, said that the trip went off to a rocky start but that it eventually became more fun.
“I think that retreat definitely helped me bond with new people and get to know my classmates,” Roy said. “When I was put into a trail group, it wasn’t people that I already knew or talked to, but I got to know them because I spent four days with them doing things that I wouldn’t normally do. I feel like the overall quality of the retreat could have been better but I don’t think there’s much else that HW can do. I don’t know much about next year’s retreat but as of right now I’m planning on going.”
Before students went on retreat, the deans of each grade had many class meetings and informational meetings to discuss everything students needed to know about retreat.
“Retreats aren’t required for any student, and students may opt out of any retreat,” Taylor Peng ’25 said. “That’s what the deans told us before we had to sign up for it.”
Although retreats are optional, Roy says that she is planning on going on retreat next year.
9th graders this year had two retreat options, long and short, which were both centered around canoeing on the Colorado River. The only difference between the two trips is that the long trip had more rowing time and the short river had fewer miles to cover. Savannah McNicholas ’25, who went on the long trip, didn’t particularly enjoy retreat and had overall negative feelings about her experience.
“It was really unsanitary I felt like, enough to be concerning, and it was just a lot of nothing and canoeing all day,” McNicholas said. “I feel like retreat just puts us through torture with our classmates so that we like each other better. It was pretty bad but now I feel more bonded with my classmates because of the shared experiences we had together.”