Imagine being separated from your son or daughter for one week, sending them off into the wilderness with no form of communication. Time passing by slowly as you wait for their return. Fortunately for the hundreds of parents of the ORRJHS students participating in the annual Survival program, that wait came to an end on Saturday, June 16 when the children were returned safely to the school.
“It’s been difficult, but it’s good for him to be away,” said Sue Seguin, whose 13-year-old son Pat Cummings participated in the trip. “He’s being independent and he’s with his friends. He’s probably had a great time.”
The students departed their families on June 9 and made their way to an undisclosed location in western Massachusetts near the Berkshires. Spending every moment outdoors hiking, parents grew nervous given the unseasonably chilly and rainy June the area has experienced thus far.
“It’s been nerve-wracking,” said Joanne Larock, mother of 13-year-old Survival participant Diana. “I thought of her often, especially with the rain. I thought of her being out in the elements at night when we were cold and would shut our windows and the fact that she was out there with no windows to shut.”
The parents anxiously awaited as hundreds of backpacks were dropped off prior to the students’ arrival. They waited in the exact area in which they dropped off their children and gave them last minute advice prior to boarding the bus.
“I told him to be positive, be a good leader, try to help other kids if they need help and remember to try and stay cheerful,” said Seguin.
“I told her that it’s going to be really hard, but remember that scores of people have done this before you and you can do it,” said Larock. “I told her to find her inner strength, feel her muscles and that she could do it.”
Despite the anxiety of being separated from their children, the parents knew the valuable lessons that this trip had in store for the students.
“We have to let them see what they’re capable of,” said Larock. “Although it’s difficult, you can push through anything. Before they get into more challenging years academically in the high school, to have this within themselves is a huge life lesson.”
Shortly after 3:00 pm and led by a police escort, two busloads of chanting and cheering students pulled into a parking lot filled with hundreds of families and friends clad with signs and bubbles to greet their survivors. 13-year-old Morgan Bliss got off the bus and ran to her mother and gave her a huge hug.
“I was so homesick when I was there,” said Bliss. “To see my family is so great, thank god I’m home. I did not like being away from home.”
In addition to seeing her family, there was something else Bliss was looking forward to as well.
“I’m looking forward to food,” she said. “I’ve been craving pancakes all week.”
Although Bliss felt homesick, she walked away from the trip with a very valuable lesson.
“I learned not to take anything for granted, like my family and my house,” she said.
By Katy Fitzpatrick