This year’s SHADES Retreat was themed “Sankofa: Connecting our Past with our Present as we Plan for our Future.” The day was filled with inspiring words and messages from esteemed speakers, as well as song and dance celebrations. Club moderators, Mrs. Eileen Marx, Senora Isabel Berko, Mrs. Rose Stevenson and retreat leaders; Sasha Jules ‘21, Tiera Figaro ‘21, and Ethen Chambers ‘21 hosted the event for students and guests in the ND Library.
The morning began with a prayer service after a welcome from ND Principal, Joanna Barlow. “When I thought about how to open today’s retreat I wanted to reflect on today’s theme of Sankofa… Connecting our past with our present as we plan for our Future. Over the past 10 year that I have been at Notre Dame this club, your moderators and our ND community as a whole have embraced Sankofa but not until this year have we formalized it or given it a name,” said Mrs. Barlow. “Our Board of Governors, the Diversity Committee, our faculty and staff, and our students have been on a quest. We looked back and critically examined our past practices, and like the Sankofa symbol of a bird, we also face forward. We examine through patient investigation and we progress (move forward) by implementing practices, policies, and offering education to ensure a strong future for ALL of the Notre Dame community,” she continued. This annual retreat helps us to continue to move forward.
The beautiful prayer service that began the retreat included Gospel readings, songs of praise movingly performed by Minister Tanza Baker of Calvary Fellowship Ministries and students Ewelina Krokos ’21 and Christian Hobdy ’21. Alexandra “Allie” Williams ’24 gave a beautiful performance of Amazing Grace on the violin. Reflections were shared by Pastor David A. Cox, Pastor of Calvary Fellowship Ministries, Mrs. Kesha Cox, author, motivational speaker and founder of Never Settle for Less (also parents of ND Senior Izzy Cox) and Deacon Curtis Turner, President and Principal of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, the oldest running Catholic school founded for the education of African Americans in the United States. Pastor Cox spoke of God’s plan for each student and how those plans can be achieved if they just set their mind to it. Mrs. Cox shared her wisdom as a mother in her speech, “From the Heart: A Mother’s Words of Encouragement.” In the form of a personal story, Deacon Turner shared the importance of perseverance and faith in life.
The very moving poem Talking Gets Us There by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman was recited by Winefred Tweh ’22. A beautiful praise dance was performed by Sasha Jules ‘21 and Jessie Tesi ’23. A spoken word presentation was given by Dwayne Curry, a Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation whose faith, passion for learning, and belief in the power of words ignites his desire to elevate matters dear to his heart through spoken word poetry. ND Alumni Jacqui Coppola ’09, a Wellness and Self-Discovery Coach with a MA in Counseling and Psychology presented a beautiful meditation, Living in the Present Moment.
The morning session concluded with a panel discussion. Panel members included Notre Dame Alumni Dr. Charisse Smith ‘85, who is the first African American woman to serve on the ND Board of Governors and is co-chair of the Committee on Diversity. Other panelists were Deacon Turner, Mr. Dwayne Curry, Pastor Cox, and Mrs. Cox. Following the panel discussion, a video of past members of the SHADES Club was shown. The ND alumni offered their wisdom to the current students.
Participants enjoyed lunch together after the morning sessions. Following lunch, the retreatants and guests were treated to tasty desserts made by aspiring chef and SHADES club member, Izzy Cox ’21. The afternoon featured a presentation and art project facilitated by Brother Mickey McGrath, an artist, author, and presenter who explores the relationship between art and faith. For eleven years, Brother Mickey was an associate professor of Studio Art and Art History at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA. Brother Mickey has celebrated 44 years as a Religious Brother in the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
An inspiring day was had by all who participated in the 5th Annual SHADES retreat. As Mrs. Barlow said in her opening speech, she is proud to be a part of this journey, and urged the SHADES Club to “…continue their important work, work which God has called each and everyone of us to do.”
Thank you to all our special guests, panelists, SHADES Club moderators and participants. A special thank you to SHADES student ambassadors: Tiera Figaro ‘21, Lauren Lencovich ‘21, Izzy Cox ‘21, Mia Abousabe ‘22, Angelina Genovesi ‘21, Patrice Isaiah ‘22, Winefred Tweh ‘22, Neayla Jones ‘23, Sunsurray Joseph ‘24, Keihrah Boyer ‘24, Mariah Harrison ‘23, Ingrid Lazo ‘24, Jessie Tesi ’23 and the SHADES set-up crew! Thank you to our Club Moderators, Mrs. Eileen Marx, Senora Isabel Berko, Mrs. Rose Stevenson as well the attendance and support of Mrs Beth Repsik, Mrs. Mary Ellsworth, and Dr. Ellieen Ingbritsen, Coordinator of Service, Diversity and Inclusion at Notre Dame.