“So often, people don’t want to take on responsibility because it’s too much,” John Sandahl said. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just take care of what’s right in front of you.”
With humor, he gave the assembled group of Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) juniors an example of what he was talking about.
“Imagine a class of fifth graders just finished eating lunch in the school gym,” he said.
“It’s a mess. Chunks of bread and lettuce are everywhere. Chips are crunching under people’s feet. It’s a disaster.
“If you told one kid to pick up the garbage, they’d be in tears. It’s a terrible job.”
“But if you tell everyone in the whole class to pick up just two pieces of garbage — well now it’s a game, and before you know it, the room is clean.”
And that was Sandahl’s message – responsibility doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
“It isn’t your job to solve the greater issues in the school, but if everyone picks up the small pieces of responsibility right in front of them, big things can happen,” he said.
The lesson was part of a retreat held May 8 at CRHS for 60 volunteer and teacher-picked juniors to work on leadership skills that would help them set a positive example during the next school year.
The retreat was put on by Youth Frontiers, a non-profit organization based in the Twin Cities that is dedicated to building the character of young people. It offers a number of retreats for both students and staff that focus on leadership, courage, respect, improved school communities and kindness.
Sandahl, the Youth Frontiers retreat director, spoke specifically to students about responsibility and the group of students also participated in a number of exercises, including an ice-breaking activity, some reflection time to brainstorm issues they see in the school and even heard live music.
CRHS is rather familiar with Youth Frontiers, according to Adam Thronson, a social studies teacher at CRHS who helped organize the retreat.
He said the school held the same retreat last year for the-then junior class, and that school staff has done prep-week retreats with the group as well.
“Last year, this retreat — it made a really big difference,” Thronson said. “When you look at the school dynamics, seniors have a large impact. You could really see the benefits of this (retreat) and the lessons that were learned.”
Thronson said each student and staff member was given a small chunk of broken glass from Sandahl when they arrived at the retreat. It represented the small pieces of responsibility each of them could take.
“When you put them all back together, you have a vase,” Thronson said.
Youth Frontiers, a non-profit organization, is based in Minneapolis and was founded in 1987.