Delaney Shiu, a student at Hillcrest High School and editor of the Hillcrest Hurricane, the school’s student-run newspaper, wrote this article.
For the past eight years at Hillcrest High School, the senior class has participated in a tradition known as senior retreat, two days where seniors don’t go to classes and participate in a number of amusing activities. The activities vary but this year, the days consisted of community service, listening to speakers, swimming, and attending various breakout sessions designed to help students prepare for life after graduation.
The first day of the retreat, Aug. 24, students boarded buses and were taken to Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church where they sat and listened to multiple speakers such as Michael Sorrell, the President of Paul Quinn College, Tracy Gomes from the Park Cities Rotary Club, Dustin Marshall, a District 2 Trustee, and Danae Gutierrez, a Dallas ISD mother and avid volunteer.
“I am always looking for speakers that I feel will have a positive impact on our students,” Hillcrest mom and retreat coordinator Debbie Sherrington said. “The slate of speakers we had this year were some of the best we have ever had.”
After listening to the speakers, the students were served lunch and were then put back on the buses and sent to Dallas ISD elementary schools such as Anne Frank, Kramer, Pershing, and Preston Hollow, to participate in community service. Many of the students had attended the schools many years ago and were excited to be able to go back and see their old classrooms and teachers.
“I went to Pershing Elementary with a portion of my senior class and we split up into different groups,” senior Madi Kelly said. “We all went to help different grades in the school and helped them in any way they need; whether that be reading to the students, organizing school supplies, or cleaning the classrooms.”
After the variety of community service at the elementary schools, the students headed back to Hillcrest for another long-standing tradition- painting the bleachers. The activity is usually done on the day of the last pep rally of the year, also known as crossover, but was postponed until the senior retreat because of rain. The seniors divide and conquer and paint the year of graduation, this year was 17, on the bleachers.
The second day of senior retreat, the students were taken directly to the Jewish Community Center for a day filled with different speakers and breakout sessions. The breakout sessions were presented by a mix of teachers and staff from Hillcrest and guests such as Kristi Flanders from the Genesis Women’s Shelter and Terry Bentley-Hill who spoke about suicide detection and prevention. The sessions ranged from as serious a subject as suicide prevention to entertaining skits about what not to do in a job interview. Each room had a different message for the students and were equally important for them to hear, especially at this time in their lives.
“The interview session was put in place to showcase proper interview etiquette. Coach Sotak played both the proper and improper interviewee, and Dr. Shanmugan played the interviewer who had different reactions to each one,” senior Carlos Hernandez said. “First, Coach Sotak entered the room as the improper interviewee dressed in a sweat suit and wearing headphones. The skit was hilarious, but it also taught us a lot about what not to do in an interview. He quickly changed clothes and came in as the proper interviewee and was very professional while still keeping the fun atmosphere of the first skit in the room.”
The first of the two main speakers of the day was Tova Sido, who spoke in the morning before the breakout sessions. Sido is a pastor who used to work at Highland Park United Church before she resigned a few years ago to spend more time with her children. She shared with the class her struggle with the two miscarriages and two child deaths she had endured years ago, and how she remained strong in her faith throughout and ended up adopting three children from Africa.
“The first time someone asked me to [share my story]I was really unsure,” Sido said. “But then I saw the hope it brought people and so I couldn’t help but do it again. And again. And again.”