District 228 Operation Snowball is a Success!

District 228 Operation Snowball is a Success!

On April 4, 115 District 228 students from Bremen, Tinley Park, Hillcrest, and Oak Forest High Schools headed to Camp Manitoqua in Frankfort, Ill. with 25 adult volunteers and staff members. The group spends three days with one another where they learned leadership skills while hopefully making a lot of new friends and having fun.

Several speakers were invited to the retreat to speak with students on a variety of topics. Speakers included M&P Presentations who discussed empowerment, Kyle Bullock from the Garfield Park Behavioral Hospital who discussed LGBTQ issues and how to be an ally, teachers from Tinley Park High School who spoke about race relations and diversity, a panel of young individuals from Rosecrance who spoke of their own personal journey and recovery process with drugs, and the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health who presented on sexual violence.

District 228 Snowball has been taking place and building relationships and leadership skills since 1989. The retreat is primarily student-lead with the help of staff members and volunteers. Roughly half of the adult staff members are alumni from the schools who come back to the District to staff the retreat in their own time.

Jennifer Gleason, Director of District 228 Snowball and a Social Worker at Tinley Park High School says, “Our staff takes personal time from their adult jobs and come back to be a part of our program and give back to our students because they remember the impact that Snowball had on their lives when they were in high school at District 228.”

Take Robert Abels as an example. He has been volunteering at Snowball for 12 years. This year, he drove five hours from his new home in Pittsburg, Ill. to serve as support staff for the retreat. Dria Wiltjer, a Bremen High School graduate, has been flying from where she lives in Chandler, Ariz. for years to donate her time to the program.

At the end of the weekend, students are invited to give their candid feedback in an anonymous survey. Here’s what some of them had to say:

"What I liked most about Snowball is that you can connect with so many people and understand the differences in other people’s life. I also enjoyed learning the positivity and strength to deal with tough subjects, meeting new people from our District, making friends with people I never thought I would, and getting to open up about personal things while being in an environment where people really care. "

Another student said,

"I learned from Snowball that people go through really bad things and this program is what lifts them up. Everyone is different in their own way, everyone has their own issues, and you can’t judge a book by its cover or other people’s schools. You don’t know what others are going through until you get to know them.”

District 228 “Snowballers” will re-unite on May 20 for a picnic. This will be a time for students to re-connect with those they met over the weekend and to also discuss plans for the next year as well as new student-leaders to take over the program.