Scenic views, fresh crisp air, and crackling fires while making s’mores were all a part of my recent trip, the Advocates Annual Retreat to Canaras. Being a part of the Advocates program for the past year has been one of the best parts of my St. Lawrence experience. As usual, the Advocates Program hosts a two day retreat to Canaras, St. Lawrence's alumni camp and conference center.
Advocates are trained to be there for students when they need a confidential source to talk to and feel heard. It was this aspect of the Advocates, their drive to be there for SLU peers through a 24/7 hotline, that allows students to be themselves. Often, these moments can be difficult to handle but its been an experience that I have come to find as the most rewarding part of my sophomore and junior year. Being a resource on campus has meant connecting with students and other organizations to provide a safe space for anyone to be comfortable.
During our annual retreat, a group of 11 advocates and a faculty member made the trip to Upper Saranac Lake. We were all able to use this time to wind down, relax and practice self-care. During the course of a busy year of being a student and carrying on other activities, it's rare for our Advocates to relax and focus on themselves as well as the collective efforts of the organization through each other. The best part about being an Advocate is knowing your dedication to the organization and your participation in planning events and collectively coming together is what makes others on campus feel safe. I have had so many amazing people, both those who have used Advocates services and those who are aware of the program, express their gratitude in what this program gives the SLU student body; support, assurance, and validation.
Choosing to become an Advocate and complete the training is a special process, and is something that students undergo because they feel passionate about the support that the Advocates provides. This was something that I felt throughout the retreat as I looked around, being an Advocate was a choice we all made, happily, and willingly.
The retreat to me, served as a way to bring everyone together, even as those who find themselves participating often, or others who sometimes cannot find the time to do so. Although I am an Advocate, there are times I find it hard to be in such a role, with school and other activities looming around the horizon, it’s almost impossible at times to extend myself further. And, at times, it’s even more difficult to want to be an Advocate when you, yourself are having conflicts. As an Advocate you have the freedom to choose to participate in the group as often as you like, or at times, take a break. It has been this flexibility and sense of support from everyone in the organization that proves to me that despite my involvement, I am always welcome. This is what has encouraged me to dive back in, after moments of difficulty. The way in which I choose to be an Advocate is different from the way others choose to be an Advocate and that is what makes the organization such a success in my eyes.