Thumbs up! – Reflection on the 2019 Annual Retreat

October 14, 2019

Contributed by Youth Community Service (YCS) youth participants

“My experience at the Marconi Retreat was amazing. The activities were all so inclusive and helped me understand things I could not understand before,” remarked Ishita Mishra, a high school freshman from the San Francisco Bay Area who participated in this year’s Shinnyo-en Annual Retreat.

This past August, Shinnyo-en Foundation celebrated its twentieth Annual Retreat at Marconi Retreat Center overlooking beautiful Tomales Bay and Point Reyes in northern California.

Over 30 participants gathered for an intergenerational time of convergence, harmony and mutual learning. They were representatives from the Foundation grantee organizations and Shinnyo Fellowship Programs at five leading universities across the county. The grantee organizations included: Brothers on the Rise (Oakland, CA), Interfaith Youth Council (Orange County, CA), Teens in Public Service (Seattle, WA), National Youth Leadership Council (St. Paul, MN and New York, NY), and Youth Community Service and Menlo-Atherton High School (San Francisco Peninsula). The Shinnyo Fellows came from Chapman University, George Mason University, Seattle University, and UC Berkeley, and the John Gardner Center & Redwood City 2020 (San Francisco Mid-Peninsula). The Foundation staff hosted the two and a half day event, led by Foundation vice president, Rev. Jay Gibson and program director, Ineko Tsuchida.

“This retreat made me realize my values and kept me thinking about who I am as a person, and what I want to do for the community,” said Laura Kim, a high school senior who learned group facilitation skills at the retreat. High school students paired with the Shinnyo Fellows as small group co-facilitators to lead thoughtful discussion about meaningful topics: What is restorative justice? What are the roots of my identity?

Ishita and Laura participate in community programs led by the Foundation grantee, Youth Community Service (YCS). Students, Alan Yang and Kavan Samant also joined the weekend retreat from YCS, accompanied by YCS staff members, Alisa Felise and Leif Erickson.

The retreat “allows you to be vulnerable in a way that is usually very difficult,” said Ishita, “and with people you don’t know. I found it to be an extremely helpful reflection time just before I started high school. I got the chance to collaborate and talk about so many different things with so many different people.”

Ishita concluded, “I had so much fun and made so many new friends. It was amazing how fast you can connect with one another in such a short period of time. Overall I loved it and it was an amazing eye-opening experience.”

YCS high school senior, Laura Kim came to the retreat now knowing what to expect. “However, after the first day,” she said, “I felt like I was learning so much. Throughout the weekend, I met so many new friends from all over the U.S – Virginia, Seattle, Southern California, and even in the Bay Area.”

Laura was surprised that she “did things I normally would never do, such as going in front of the crowd dancing to High School Musical, especially when I was doing it in front of the people I had just met a day ago.”

At the end of the retreat, Laura promised, “I will definitely apply the new skills I learned back to my community and school club to build a better, tighter community, so that we will think deeper about what we are doing.”

Thank you to Shinnyo-en Foundation for sponsoring two decades of inspiring, engaging and transforming annual retreats for hundreds of participants at this magical place. Gazing across the water of Tomales Bay, we’re confident the ripples will continue for decades to come.

Carmen from a member of the National Youth Leadership Council’s (NYLC) Youth Advisory Council, another participant who joined the “High School Musical” during the Open Mic and Game Night on Saturday at the Annual Retreat, also wrote a heartwarming reflection on the NYLC’s blog. Here is the link to her article!

Please enjoy hundred other photos that captured fun and reflective activities through the Shinnyo Fellows’ Orientation in the Foundation’s office, Home Group Facilitators’ Orientation in Bear Valley Visitor Center, and Annual Retreat at Marconi Conference Center by clicking this link.