The Riley’s Way Retreat this past weekend exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable. From the moment I stepped off the bus into the crisp mountain air, I was amazed. The weather and location were perfect, a refreshing break from the Florida heat. Everywhere I looked the trees were bursting with color, starting to change for autumn. But what was even better than the location was the people. From the very first activity where we were broken into groups, I met other girls who are some of the kindest, most open-minded people I have ever encountered. It was enriching to talk with people from all over the country, as far from Tampa as Washington.
Saturday contained most of the programming, with both adult and teen-led workshops. At the beginning of the day, Riley’s dad explained the story of her life and how the foundation was started. After hearing about Riley, I realized that the girls who were there truly embodied the kindness and empathy that Riley demonstrated throughout her life. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I enjoyed learning about relationship building and communication in the two adult-led workshops, both skills that I know will be useful in moving forward. The highlight of my experience was the teen-led workshops. To start, I presented along with four others from RNF. We were able to share our experiences helping rebuild homes in the panhandle with the attendees. We also explained how we got involved with the foundation and proposed ideas for how others can start organizations of their own. Next, I attended a workshop about mental health and social media presented by my fellow SSP mate Anika and her partner, Aayushi. The presenters had an interview with the psychiatrist who consulted on the show 13 Reasons Why. It was interesting to hear how the show was designed to accurately represent mental health issues. The presenters also discussed how there are modern solutions to help people deal with their mental health such as meditation apps and AI “therapists”. The final workshop I attended was about an app called Womaze facilitated by Hannah. It is an app designed by women, for women that has content about motivation and self-love. The presenter went through the four pillars of self-love and explained why it is important. It was intriguing to me because it is something I had not thought much about before.
Overall, this weekend showed me the importance of kind leadership and instilled hope in me that my generation truly does have the power to change the world. I am grateful for everything I learned and all of the amazing people I met. I hope to carry these lessons with me and keep in touch with my new friends far into the future.
– Catherine Litchy