From the memories of two successful Capstone Experience Excursions trips to Washington, D.C. with rising seniors came the “seeds of development” that led to the Fall Retreat, a modified L.A.M.P. Workshop held Saturday, October 28, 2023, at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.

Most of the thirty-seven Mentees confirmed to attend knew early on that this was not going to be a regular workshop. First, Mr. Holmes and Mr. Charles had informed them that the normal wearing of suits and ties was not required; that casual/comfortable dress was ok, and that this event would last all day with drop off at 8:30 am Saturday morning and pick-up not occurring until 9:00 pm Saturday evening. Based on the GPS fact that the city of Thousand Oaks was at least a 60–75 -minute drive from most of their addresses, it also meant getting up earlier and returning much later to their normal Saturday activities. Ok, taking all things in stride. . .breaking out of routines can be a good thing.

First, let’s go back to those “seeds of development” and the Mentor’s Teaching Goal for this event, which originated from mentee comments that the workshops were filled with a lot of great information, and that as a group they felt like they wanted and needed more time to get to know each other individually. Something that some participants got to experience on the annual Capstone Experience Excursion to the Washington, D.C. area.

EVENT GOAL: Develop and hold an annual event that builds relationships and comraderies that will continue to manifest, develop, and grow as the Mentees move through their educational years and into future careers.

On track with the Mentees arrival, the pace of the day reached and maintained freeway speeds, starting at 8:30 am with the first of three meals (Breakfast-Burritos / Lunch- Panda Express options and Dinner- Taco Plates) which were prepared and served by Ms. Liba Bagley and her Team of dedicated parents and volunteers with their usual flair for good food and professional-level dining room care. The Mentees enjoyed the time for food and fellowship and the Mentors used the time to make last-minute preparations. Thank-You Ms. Bagley, parents, and volunteers.

The day also started with the adoption of the general approach of “Leave No Trace.” This meant that cleaning up was a regular part of the day and not merely an end of the day activity. Under “Leave No Trace” the goal is to have to people who own and operate the location wonder if the event had occurred at all since the place was as clean, if not cleaner, than it was the day before the activity.

The schedule was robust with many things to do and significant time to work on the Charge, getting to know the best of one another. As part of that Charge, Mentees were challenged to learn at least three things about each of the other Mentees and to record that information in their journal. The Mentees started with a Critical Thinking Ice Breaker, being asked to answer questions on the fly and to think on their feet. Next up was the introduction to the Breakout Sessions to talk about the book, All American Boys. In these sessions, the Mentors led the Mentees through a series of discussion questions to tease out their interpretations of the book and to discuss what lessons they learned from the book (Learn, Ask, Meet & Promise). Most of the Mentees read the book and more importantly, as part of the Brotherhood, Mentees who had read the book helped Mentees who had not, and needed help to understand the plot, the characters, and the events of the book.

Following a short break, the Mentors led the Mentees in the First Bonding Activity – a Jeopardy Game. Mentees were divided into teams of three or four and played Jeopardy with the following topics: “Meaning,” “Mentors,” “Program,” “Mentors Again,” and “Program Again.” As with all activities the acronym, “Learn-Ask-Meet-Promise” was a constant mantra. Again, the Brotherhood aspect showed up with Mentees working together to determine the answers, or rather the questions called for in each category.

Lunch was a great opportunity. Mr. Holmes announced the flag football teams and the teams sat together while they ate. They had a task to choose a name for their team. Much debate took place and eventually all eight teams identified their team’s name. Before football, however, there was some work to do. Mentees rotated through four workshops on the following topics – resume writing, developing an elevator speech, making an Ask, and learning about the Grid: the L.A.M.P. Mentee fundraising campaign. Yes, the L.A.M.P. Mentor Program believes in having the Mentees have a stake in the game and the Program encourages that through a Mentee-led fundraising campaign.

Then it was off to the field of combat for the Second Bonding Activity, the Flag Football Tournament. The Mentors set up the fields so that 4 games could be played simultaneously and agreed on the rules of engagement. Each game was 10 minutes in length; a team needed 3 pass completions to get a first down; no field goals, although a safety would be permitted; and the team with the most points when time was up, would be the winner. The Tournament was double-elimination, so that a team had to lose twice in order to be eliminated. The games were intense, fun, and respectful. Everyone who wanted to play did, and some chose not to engage. The Brotherhood aspect showed up again as groups of Mentees who were not playing gathered to toss footballs, have conversations or cheer their fellow Mentees on. The outcome was equally engaging. The team of Dominic Mitchell (Fr.), Jack Madison (Jr.), Michael Carter (Fr.), Jayden Davis (So.), and Logan Weaver (Sr.), pictured here, lost its first game, and rose through the Losers Bracket to emerged victorious by beating the team from the Winners Bracket twice to become the champion and win it all.

Tired and a little chilly, the Mentees returned to the Swenson Center Building for reflection, journaling, and to work on the Charge. Dinner was a superb mixture of protein and veggies to make tacos. During dinner, each Mentee reported on one other Mentee that he had met. After dinner was the Third Bonding Activity – board games, conversation, watching football on laptops and general cooling out.

Mr. Jay arrived at 8:30 pm and conducted the closing activity, the BT Experience. BT stands for Bound Together. All the Mentees formed a circle and locked arms as Mr. Jay talked to them about the fact that they are bound together and the value of being bound together. He reminded them that this circle joins previous circles of Mentees in a tapestry that enables each to rely on the other when life throws its curves and bumps their way. Being “Bound Together” means that no one stands alone; no one has to face any challenge alone; and everyone has a responsibility to look out for and be there for their fellow Mentees. The Bound Together experience emerged from the 2021 and 2022 Capstone Excursion Experiences and was a vital aspect of the 2022 and now the 2023 Fall Retreat.

Well, it was a great day and all great things must come to an end. Parents are here to pick us up and it is time to leave. Great memories, great time, great friendships… “Oh Yeah. . . I did bring my cell with me. . .Where is that storage box?”