Annual Posse Plus Retreat goes virtual

Dareana Roy

The members of the first Posse at IWU are now in their senior year.
Photo: Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan held its fourth annual Posse Plus Retreat (PPR) on Saturday, January 30. Due to the pandemic, major changes had to be made. The retreat was held online and for one day only unlike the weekend-long retreats that were held in the past off campus. Despite the restrictions that had to be followed, a record number of students, faculty and staff attended. More than 100 people participated in the online event.

The theme of this year’s PPR  was “The State of Our Leadership.” The participants were asked to define leadership, identify qualities that make a leader and relate the discussion of leadership to current events and issues that occur in the U.S. as well as on our campus

The retreat was facilitated by George Emilio Sanchez, who has been involved with the Posse Foundation since its creation. It was also led with the help of Posse students and trainers. 

Sanchez began with a discussion about the PPR Context video, which highlighted the main issues that would guide the retreat. The video focused on Covid-19, the BLM protests that occurred over the summer, and the insurrection at the Capitol. 

He then transitioned to a conversation on leadership. Participants were asked to define leadership, identify qualities that make an effective leader, and share figures who they think embody these qualities.

George Emilio Sanchez outlines the discussion on leadership for the Posse Plus Retreat.
Photo: Dareana Roy

Sanchez bridged the two topics together by putting participants in small groups and asking them to find solutions to scenarios that relate to Illinois Wesleyan’s campus.

Despite going virtual, the Posse Plus Retreat still created an opportunity to form new relationships and tackle pressing issues as a community.

“The Posse Plus Retreat is a critical opportunity to immerse in deep discussions about inclusion and leadership,”  Dean of Students Karla Carney-Hall said. “I missed the in-person retreat format because of the special way it builds community and establishes strong friendships, but I was so happy to see strong campus engagement in the virtual format.”

The Posse 1 cohort, now seniors, were the first group of Posse Scholars to come to IWU. Since their arrival, there have been three new groups and one expected for next year as well. The scholars attend IWU through the University’s partnership with Posse Foundation. The nonprofit organization identifies and recruits high school students with leadership potential from 10 U.S. metropolitan areas and matches groups of 10 students with colleges participating in the program. The Posse 1 cohort has now led four PPRs. 

“I love the Posse Retreats. It’s one of the only times where students and professors can speak on issues as equals” Posse 1 scholar Michael O’Neill said.

The scholars are the leaders in planning and leading the retreat for other students.  

“The Posse Plus Retreat is always open to anybody, regardless of their views and backgrounds. Anyone has the chance to share their thoughts without facing repercussions. The retreat creates a safe space for everyone to speak in order to carry a more meaningful discussion about important issues,” Posse 1 scholar Shakira Cruz-Gonzales said.

Although the event had to be moved online, those who attended described it as a great success.

“I am proud of all our Posse scholars and the leadership they provide for PPR and across campus” Carney-Hall said.