The Significance of Language: a Reflection on the Posse Plus Retreat

Hadjj Mare ’18, a member of Posse, and Molly Santora ’18, an invited guest, recount their experiences on the annual Posse Plus Retreat and the important dialogue constructed in order to further the Trinity community.


Being a member of Posse, a college access and youth leadership development program, every year, I attend the annual Posse Plus Retreat. At this retreat, Posse students invite guest students to come together to talk about issues occurring on campus and around the world. I try to invite as many people as possible so that I can help spread the message of positive change and diversity that Posse is trying to promote within the Trinity community. The retreat centers around a specific theme to evoke conversation. Last year, the theme was crime and punishment, discussing the increase of police brutality and the legal system. This year, the topic was words and how they can have a strong impact on a person.

There are many sensitive segments incorporated into the activities, such as a student-led talk where people share some of their most personal stories. Segments like this are planned in order to alleviate some of the tension and stress that burdens students. I’ve always been a fan of these retreats; mainly because they challenge me to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people that I would probably never talk to independently. It allows a level of comfort where although everybody is an unfamiliar face to everyone, the feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness are erased. The retreats allow me to speak my mind freely without fear of being judged for my opinions and emotions.

This retreat’s activities were more concise than they were in previous years, allowing students to get to the bottom of problems. By not prolonging activity times unnecessarily, ample time was left to spark new conversations outside the scope of the planned activities. I also created more connections with people from campus than I did at last year’s retreat, expanding my pool of connections and increasing my social capital.

When surrounded by engaged and open-minded listeners, it is easier to voice my thoughts on issues involving our college and country. These retreats are not only an opportunity to get off campus, but also to allow a “safe space” for like-minded individuals to devise plans to help better Trinity College. If I could invite 20 people or more, I would, just so that everyone on campus can express their thoughts and become more aware of the challenges students endure daily. Posse retreats are vital to those that want to create change at Trinity and make a better community.

By: Hadjj Mare ’18

A few weeks ago, I was invited on this year’s Posse Plus retreat. The only information I received was that it was a weekend away with other Trinity students serving to foster discussion about social issues. Though I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, I figured it would be a nice alternative from the typical college weekend routine and a good opportunity to make some new friends.

The theme of the weekend was words and language – whether certain people are “allowed” to say specific words, how coded language can be just as powerful as speaking bluntly and how the choices we make in what we say can both help and hurt people. I quickly realized that I was in a room with some of Trinity’s best leaders and most socially conscious individuals.

Everyone who spoke brought a thoughtful perspective to any discussion we were having, whether they were speaking to everyone in the room, in smaller groups or in one-on-one conversations. We learned about mirco-aggressions — that is, subtly offensive remarks that usually come from a place of ignorance. We discussed how media, often negatively, shapes culture. We analyzed polarizing language and why it is used. However, we also used language to bring a room full of people together.

In some ways, I felt like the weekend was preaching to the choir. I was with a group of people who already knew that words can hurt, people who were aware of misjudging others and the world around them. However, the true importance of the weekend was to foster a space where these issues could be discussed and to remind people that others either feel the same way or offer different perspectives that are worth hearing. In doing this, the weekend was an indicator that your voice matters and everyone has the power to make a valuable contribution to the Trinity community and beyond.

Throughout the weekend, the word “assumption” proved to be the most thought provoking for me. We don’t always want to be who others assume we are based upon how we look, what we have or don’t have, or where we’re from. We aren’t in control of those things. We are, however, in control of how we treat others and the impact we have on the world. We are in control of the parts of our identity in which we take pride. Not least of all, we are in control of how we perceive others. This weekend taught me, above all else, that everyone has a different story: take the time to learn it. Control your judgments. We’d be a better school community if we remembered to do so.

By: Molly Santora ’18

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