Teen Teachers attend Harambe, prepare for Pedernales

More than 100 sophomores, juniors and seniors met outside the freshman center after school May 1, cheering, yelling and dancing as the freshmen looked on. After a short time, the Teen Teachers, still shouting and cheering, climbed onto their buses and left for Harambe.

Harambe was a three-day retreat May 1-3 for the students who have been selected to be Pedernales leaders. At Harambe, the students prepared for Pedernales and practiced their leadership skills. The leaders had to apply for the position, and after being selected, they were assigned to a squad of six people that they worked with at Harambe and will work with at Pedernales. While at Pedernales, the leaders are required to direct a squad of eighth graders through various activities and challenges.

“I think that any leadership position can be tricky, especially leading 30 plus eighth graders per squad,” said senior Madi Wright, who has been selected as a squad leader for the third time. “Difficulties can be overcome with patience and a little creativity, though.”

During Harambe,approximately 130 students, split into 20 squads, competed through spirit, roll calls and different games. Harambe is used as a time for squad leaders to come up with crazy themes, along with cheers and team clothing that relate to their themes. These themes, cheers and clothing are later used at Pedernales.

“We were all there with the hope to hone our leadership skills and bring us together as a team,” Madi said. “It’s a pretty odd and amazing thing to come together over cheering our faces off about a bogus theme that we made up for our squad. It was really fun coming up with cheers and skits and getting decked out in our squad’s theme apparel.”

Pedernales is a two-day outdoor adventure May 19-20 at Pedernales Falls State Park that the Teen Teachers organize for the middle school students. While there will be around 650 kids from both West Ridge and Hill Country, there will only be 126 high school students managing the events and the students, a ratio of 5 middle schoolers for each Teen Teacher.

“Usually, it is not hard at all to to manage the kids because my peers are always willing to do whatever they can to help and they are very excited to go all out with our theme — cavemen,” senior Lindsey Horton said.

While the idea of Pedernales is to bring the middle school students together before they are combined as freshmen, some of the kids try not to participate in the cheers and activities that form the group atmosphere. Instead, they remain silent during cheers, watch others during the activities and, occasionally, skip the trip entirely and stay at home.

“With the kids who don’t get into the theme from the get go, one to one communication with them is the best thing you can do,” Teen Teacher senior Aparna Chandrashekar said. “Just pull them aside and ask them what’s going on and why they’re not helping out with the rest of the squad and participating. I had a couple of these kids last year, and if you gave them something important to do, like carry the flag, they felt better and got more involved.”

While managing Pedernales is tough, the Teen Teachers have high hopes and are excited about the trip.

“I’m looking forward to hanging out with the kids,” Lindsey said. “I just love having those few kids who love cheering and trying their best in the games. They’re the kids that I get to bond with.”