Lake Geneva leadership weekend returns


Courtesy of Donna Slusher Full group picture

At the beginning of each new school year, there are many things that East students look forward to. These may be football games, pep rallies, or the homecoming dance. One East tradition is the Lake Geneva Leadership Weekend where students of all grades go to the Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School to make new friends, learn new skills, and try adventurous activities. Sadly, the weekend did not take place since 2019 due to the pandemic. However, after much waiting, the trip finally happened this year on April 23 and 24. 

Courtesy of Peyton Dybowski
Students climbing the rock wall

Donna Slusher, a teacher at East, said that she has been running the trip for 11 years, and Not having it in 2021 was damaging to the school as well as herself. 

“We felt a huge loss not having the trip last year. It is a way to kick off each year, where 120 students get to experience a unique opportunity of connection, challenge, fun, and inspiration. It really left a gap in the students’ understanding of what the leadership program is all about,” said Slusher.  “We had to work hard this year to keep it going and encourage students to take a risk and step out of their comfort zone and interact with people they both knew and had never met before after a time when people had been extremely isolated. It was the biggest challenge Ms. Miller and I had been faced with since we started running the program.” 

Kaylee Choi is a student who went both as a freshman and this year as a junior. She said that it has always been her favorite weekend of the school year. 

“Lake Geneva weekend has been my favorite school weekend each year that I go. The way you connect with those around you, the counselors, and the outdoors on this trip make this experience so genuinely unforgettable,” she said. “You try so many new things and take part in activities you would never do elsewhere. The positive energy and vibes that people give off are truly something that I will never forget the feeling of.” 

Before leaving for the trip, all students were randomly sorted into groups with senior leaders. Emerson Neczek who was a senior leader said that her favorite part was meeting new people. 

“It was really fun and upbeat. There were so many things to do and meeting new people was a definite plus,” she said. 

During the weekend, there were as many opportunities as possible to spend time with groups. According to sophomore Lauren Tresselt, her group ate meals at the same table and sat on the bus together. 

Courtesy of Emerson Neczek
Groups sat together for every meal and wore themed bandanas

“I met so many people who I normally would not talk to. We did all of our activities together and the only time we were apart was in our cabins. We did so many different activities regarding leadership and teamwork,” Tresselt said. 

Besides meeting new people, students took part in trust activities both physically and mentally. 

“One of my favorites was the 12-foot wall in which we only had to use each other to get up. Another activity was the trust fall off a ladder. You had to jump off and your group members would catch you,” said Tresselt.

Courtesy of Dan Matuszak
Lauren Tresselt being hoisted up onto the 12-foot wall

On Saturday night the groups had sharing time in which they discussed the theme of the weekend which was “Express yourself, Empower others, Explore together”. 

“Each group had their own conversations to get things off their chest. This allowed me to see a deeper part of everyone and to see aspects of their lives I never would have. I felt a stronger bond with everyone,” said Choi. 

Courtesy of Kaylee Choi
Lauren McKeown (left) and Kaylee Choi (right) on Saturday night

Every year, the seniors create a skit to perform. It is entirely created and acted out by the leaders. Lauren McKeown, a senior leader, was very involved in making it. 

“My favorite part was the skit! It was different actually being apart of it and creating it, but seeing the final product was so fun!” she said. 

The end of the night wrapped up with a dance party as a full group. There was fun lights and classic songs. 

“The bonfire and dancing afterwards with all of the other groups tied the night together. It was immaculate. I felt a stronger bond with everyone. The songs that played and the giant mosh pit and the bonfire smell set the mood and it really was a perfect night. I wish I could go back in time!” said Choi. 

After almost two years of isolation, the team of teachers and students who put it all together are grateful to the school and the participants. 

“I am grateful for the 26 Senior Leaders who spent their entire year giving back to Glenbard East with Lake Geneva as the final gift! We appreciate the support that administration and the board gave us this year with all the additional health complications!” said Slusher.