By Ellie Dwight, Dean of Students, Sonoma Academy
This past January we contracted with Rites of Passage, Inc., to lead a nine-day Vision Quest with eight members of our senior class and two faculty members. Since Sonoma Academy’s inception six years ago we have hoped to have a Vision Quest for our students, and this year proved to be the perfect time. Without exception the students who participated in the Vision Quest had experiences of profound learning and growth. Many of them said the trip was the best thing they had ever done and spoke powerfully to the underclassmen by urging them to participate in future years.
For me as dean of students, I was struck by how our entire community was affected by Vision Quest experience. Just yesterday at our closing staff meeting one of our teachers said, “I think we can’t underestimate the impact of the Vision Quest. I could feel the affects of it radiating out throughout our school; the students who returned were so bonded and so calm that it definitely had a strong effect on the rest of the school.” I couldn’t agree more.
Although a small group (about 1/5th of our senior class) the Vision Quest students set the tone in our annual spring senior retreat. By so fully embracing self-reflection and Council (a talking circle method that we use at SA and that Rites of Passage uses on their trips), this core group of students gave permission to the rest of their classmates to say goodbye in a much more meaningful and authentic way than previous classes.
Please feel free to contact me should you want to hear more about our experience with Rites of Passage and Vision Quest programs. My only concern for the future is that more students will want to attend than we can send!