Student Testimonials

Nov 30, 2022 12:00 AM

Every year, the ODEI takes a group of students to Camp Allegheny to engage in a social justice summit. Here, students have the opportunity to learn more about themselves, learn about social justice issues within the FSU community and their own identities and even walk away from the weekend with friendships that last. The social justice summit also allows students to engage in an interactive NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) workshop. During the workshop, students gain a better understanding about different social and private identities, have the chance to build on allyship and increase their interpersonal relationship skills.

Before leaving the retreat, students were asked to participate in giving feedback about their time spent over the weekend. Below are three student testimonials answering the following questions:

"Would you recommend this retreat to others? Why? Why not?"
"What is the value that you received from the retreat that you would share with your peers?
"How would this benefit all of campus?"
Student #1:
"'Forever Growing'

As a person who has always dealt with high anxiety and trouble connecting with others, it was frightening to hear that it was required for the Echostars (an organization that I am in) to attend a retreat. It was between a leadership retreat and the Social Justice Summit. I’m a person who is always learning, and growing, so I chose the Social Justice Summit in hopes to achieve that goal. I am pleased to say that the summit was more than I could’ve hoped for, and I have and will be recommending it to many others in the future. Along with being an anxious person, I've always been an empathetic person taking others into consideration when I speak. Even with this being true, I learned so much about others and other cultures during this summit. Listened to their stories to better understand how to approach things I may not understand yet. Learning how I may have hurt others in the past was scary to realize, but we also talked about how denial wasn't going to help anyone.

It was so refreshing to get out of my comfort zone, to go to a place I've never been before and to talk to people I didn't know. Both the FSU staff and camp staff were so kind and open. Although these things were great, my favorite aspect of this summit was the safe space that was created. No matter how different we all were, there was a clear understanding that in that space, there was no judgment, on mistakes, challenges, or fears. That was the most relieving thing for me personally because I'm constantly looking over my shoulder or listening just a little extra because I'm scared to be ridiculed.

Something from the summit that I will always carry throughout my life is the value of equality in every setting. Even when it's passive inequality like the exclusion of a person or thereaction someone may have, it has a lasting effect on people. No matter what race, gender expression, sexual orientation, it’s important to treat people with love and kindness. In retrospect, I think everyone has been told this since we were all in kindergarten, ‘treating everyone how you would want to be treated’. But I also think it's hard to remember these things as we grow older and deal with more challenges and obligations in our own personal life.

All of these things considered, even if people already think that they have the social abilities and empathetic traits to treat everyone equally. I think it would benefit everyone on campus to get a refresher of what lasting consequences inequality can have. So then as we move along this semester and hopefully the rest of our lives, we remember to be kinder, to not only our peers but everyone we see.
I've always said that I truly love everyone in this world, the Social Justice Summit has just reminded me to love everyone a little more."

Student #2:
"…I am a freshman at Frostburg State University. We’re currently in the 7th week of classes and things are starting to get better. When I say “things,” I mean social life, academics, and my mental health. I arrived on campus knowing absolutely no one while being 3 hours away from home. I went from living with my mother and sister, having two jobs, plenty of friends with a great social life to having a completely independent life on campus by myself. This began taking a toll on my happiness after about 3 weeks. I still haven’t met any friends, I found my classes to be too easy so they became boring, and was afraid if I got a job I wouldn’t have time for myself. I craved going home every weekend, I wanted to get back to the life I was used to.

I initially heard about the diversity retreat because my ORIE professor instructed it was mandatory attendance for class. With me not knowing anyone on campus still, I wasn’t very excited about attending. Friday, September 30th came, and it was time to board the bus to go to Camp Alleghany, looking around at everyone else on the bus who had a friend beside them, besides me. Still with low enthusiasm I told myself “It’s only three days, let’s just get this over with.” We arrived, were given our assigned cabins for this visit, and then unloaded. Everyone went down to the chapel for instructions and a warm welcome, everyone introduced themselves and what made them want to attend. The night ended and we went to bed. Morning came and at least 5 people asked me “are you okay?”, I guess my body language said it all, it wasn’t that I didn’t like the people there, I just didn’t know nay of them. I started thinking to myself “I don’t want to give everyone the idea that I don’t like them so let me crack a smile or two.” I started to engage with others more and ended up finding a friend group. They were all upper classmen but that was okay. I went from not being able to wait to return to campus to not being able to wait until next year for another opportunity to attend. I would definitely recommend this retreat to someone, any age or race. The retreat was a great way to learn about others experience as well as meet new people. I met a lot of beautiful ladies from upperclassmen to employees of the university. Now I can return to campus knowing that if I ever feel alone again, I have someone to turn to. My favorite part of the retreat would have to be the warm and fuzzy bag, I received so many encouraging words and positive reinforcements. The words that were written on the notes stuck with me so much, I have them posted on the bulletin board in my room. If the retreat had a positive output on me, I know it could help someone else see how others are feeling as well as make them a better them. I feel like the diversity retreat helped me become a better me and notice my worth. Thank you to all of the faculty who put this together and a special thanks to McKenna and Ms. Wynder."

Student #3:
"...I am a freshman with a major in Health Sciences. I attended the Diversity Retreat of 2022. In this retreat, we explored the many different groups of society. Name, age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability and more. During this retreat, we shared our personal experiences and had interesting discussions about which groups we belong to, the stereotypes applied to them, and how we can help to bring awareness to these groups and respect them.

The retreat was held at Camp Allegheny. We stayed in two cabins. Our days consisted of many different and fun workshops that allowed us to see different points of views on things. Also the workshops allowed us to speak our minds on what we believe. Everyone there made it a safe environment. One of the workshops was us talking about the different diversity groups. I believe the game was called take a stand. The rules were if you applied to this specific group stand up or raise your hand. You were not obligated to stand but since the safe environment was created, I felt comfortable enough to stand when it applied to me. This made me feel more comfortable in my skin, more comfortable with who I am because when you look around the room to see who else is standing with you.. You realize that you are not alone. There are other people with you in that category. Birds of a feather flock together right? Once everyone noticed they were not alone, their entire mindset was changed. They were more open minded, more together with others.

I would definitely recommend this retreat to everyone, especially freshmen. I have learned so much about others and their experiences. My mind was opened more, I have perspective on certain things, I can respectfully address others and speak to them without offending or upsetting them. I can honestly say that I left this retreat a different person than when I first walked and got on that bus. We, as freshmen, have so many more years to go. Each year there will be a new set of people on campus. Having this experience and this knowledge will help make campus a better environment, a safer environment, a peaceful environment. We may even sing kumbaya. Studies have shown that students who study in a positive environment have been shown to be more motivated, engaged, and have a higher overall learning ability. It’s okay to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. I did when I went on this retreat and it is the best thing I have ever done and I would do it again and again.

As Dr. Travis has told me before, 'You are the change that we need to make this place even better than it currently is.'"