Moving The Urban Plunge Online

Annie Roske, Staff Writer

As virtual classes begin to feel more and more normal, so does virtual community service for the sophomores experiencing Urban Plunge this year. They will experience the retreat via Zoom this year, together with their Collegio classmates, Senior leaders, Ms. Ford, Mr. Mack, and a guest speaker on homelessness in Seattle. The transition from a 36-hour, interactive retreat with hands-on service to a 3-hour call from the comfort of a student’s home will not only lack the ‘feeling’ of the traditional retreat, but it will also change the student’s outcome.

“In some ways, it’s a positive change,” says Ms. Ford, Director of Christian Service at Prep. “For example, in past years students may have had a very different experience based on which site(s) they were at for their service projects and now we know that everyone will be getting the same experience and information.”

The retreat has been altered from the typical hands-on service at different shelters, to breakout rooms, each focusing on a different month or holiday to donate party decorations to for a specific shelter. The retreat is organized into groups of three or four sophomores and two senior leaders in each breakout room. There is discussion time in the rooms to talk about different types of service students have done, the needs of different marginalized groups, and various ways to serve. Teachers now have the satisfaction of knowing that every student is experiencing the same Plunge, while in years past it has been different for each group.

The outcome may not be all positive, however. “I think the retreat will lack the face-to-face connections that I had in my urban plunge retreat. I was able to empathize with those I met on the retreat and the current sophomores will not be able to experience that” said Addie Roza ’21.

Before Coronavirus, the retreat was an overnight tradition that had students serving people experiencing homelessness in Seattle and making genuine connections with them and the overall issue in our community. This year, it is hearing stories and imagining what it is like to be someone in a shelter, instead of seeing and experiencing the real atmosphere.

“All elements of our service program this year have shifted to being virtual because of health considerations. It is our responsibility to be of service to our community while also keeping our entire community, people experiencing homelessness included, safe and healthy,” said Ford.

Ideally, Seattle Prep students would be on campus for school and retreats would return to normal, however the safety of the students is their priority. Sacrifices were made in the retreat, but the goal was still reached; to teach students the importance of learning, serving, and growing.