Snowball experiences record low enrollment

Concludes second operation of the school year, issues resolved

Kathryn Lazich, Reporter

Since their fall retreat in November 2022, Operation Snowball has executed their second retreat of the year despite pre-retreat struggles with enrollment. The retreat took place from March 10-11 at YMCA Camp MacLean in Burlington, WI. 

So much goes into making each Snowball retreat weekend work, such as leader  meetings, camp insurance, and itinerary planning, therefore it was difficult to determine the exact contributing factors with the declines in participants, sponsor Angela Patel said. 

“We didn’t ever have an issue with getting participants than we did this year,” Patel said. “It was just for the spring [retreat], we didn’t have this issue in the fall. It could also be that it is one weekend later than it was the previous year.” 

In order to reach full participation of 195 students, Snowball sponsors asked teachers if they had any students that could benefit from going on the spring retreat. This spring a total of 160 students signed up to participate. 

“I reached out to teachers and said, ‘Who do you think might be a good fit,’ and just had them give us recommendations,” Patel said. “We went and pulled [students] out for a few minutes of class, and I started talking about how a teacher recommended [them] because of [their] positivity. I could see their body language change from being closed off [at first] to, ‘Oh, someone has a positive view of me,’ and that was super cool to talk to people and see.”

Another possible factor that could have played a role in low participant numbers is the common misconceptions surrounding Snowball’s mission. Oftentimes, Snowball is misconstrued as just a camp where teenagers go to share their feelings, staff member Kaitlynn Deakins ‘23 said. 

“Yes, we talk about feelings, but it’s not all just feelings,” Deakins said. “It’s connecting with other people that you may not connect with otherwise. As an upperclassman, I have been able to connect and become friends with some of the underclassmen that I would have never met if I hadn’t gone on Snowball. I’ve met so many great people through Snowball because of its [togetherness].”

Throughout a student’s high school experience there might be rough patches along the way, and participating in Snowball could be a way to find a sense of belonging, co-staff director Allyssa Wong ‘23 said. 

“Snowball is one of the most supportive environments I’ve ever been in, and that I can contribute to,” Wong said. “It’s where I’ve found what I enjoy about myself, which can be really hard when there’s so much stress. Snowball is a place to let that all go and just focus on existing and what that means to yourself.” 

Year after year, the adults watch students evolve in hopes that the lessons they take away from the retreats end up snowballing out into different aspects of their life, Patel said. 

“That’s why I do it, because I know that it’s not going to stay here,” Patel said.  “It’s why we call it Snowball because it’s supposed to snowball out. It’s supposed to spread out to be a more positive community. I mean, that is the ultimate goal.” 

Snowball wants to make a lasting impression on each individual that walks its path, and it could be a new way to step outside of comfort zones, Deakins said.

“Snowball is a place where I really feel like I found my family and my voice as I was always a very introverted person,” Deakins said. “I also know how to support other people when they’re going through tough times because of Snowball, and I know that I have people that I can go to when I need someone to talk to.”

Snowball staff members will continue to encourage students to take that leap of faith that could lead them to a weekend filled with positive vibes and memories, Wong said. 

“I think people should try it,” Wong said. “It’s just one time [and] it’s one weekend. If you come into it with an open mind, a willingness to try something new and meet new people it can be a really strong experience to have. It’s something that is completely unique that you will not really find elsewhere. Everyone should go.”