An Epic Adventure
Epic Trip for high school seniors includes college visit, serve project, team-building – and lots of fun!
Our most recent Epic Trip with high school seniors definitely lived up to its name. The Epic Trip is the reward for high school seniors each year upon their completion of Senior Life Prep. The purpose of this experience, in existence through Northland since around 2002, is to help both high school students and their parents navigate the transitional time between high school and the students’ next stage, whether it’s college, the military or the workforce.
Peter and Laurie Travers founded this experience, which has been through many iterations through the years. My husband, Jack Gritter, and I (along with help from many others) have facilitated Senior Life Prep for the last several years.
Senior Life Prep comprises four gatherings every fall, followed by an intentional eight-week group of teachings. The students gather every Sunday afternoon during the eight weeks to learn about finance, relationships, apologetics, existing college student testimonies, cooking on a budget, how to change a tire and more. We challenge the students to learn how to cook by dividing them into groups and asking them to create a menu, grocery shop, prepare the meal and serve it to the entire group within a certain budget. Also during Senior Life Prep, we talk about what they are excited about, what their fears are, and how to learn coping mechanisms regarding change.
At the end of the eight weeks, we take them on a five-day trip; they don’t know where they are going, and neither do their parents. It’s all about learning to trust God and one another and being flexible.
The Epic Trip 2019 did not disappoint! Twenty people went on the trip: 15 high school students and five chaperones. Certain elements of this trip are staples, such as a service project, a college visit, team-building exercises, a spiritual component and fun!
We left Northland on a Wednesday afternoon and returned the following Monday night. Our first stop was Stetson University for the college visit. We spent about an hour and a half there and had a great time. That night we drove to Atlanta, the location of this year’s service project. We had a full day of painting, rebuilding wooden stairs, doing yard work, cleaning inside a home and building above-ground planters for Ms. Consuela and her children. Ms. Consuela is a quadriplegic single mom whose children (10, 15 and 17) are her primary caregivers. Her bright and cheerful disposition had a wonderful affect on our students. Some told us later that she and the service project were their favorite part of the trip! We left Atlanta that evening and headed to Greenville, S.C., to have a time of debriefing the day and discussing Ephesians with the students before heading to bed.
On Friday morning, we took the students to tour the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., for an amazing historical and cultural experience. Everyone was astounded at the size of it! From there we took them to Maggie Valley for an afternoon of snow skiing and snowboarding. Some of the students had never skied or snowboarded, so we offered lessons, and then most of them hit the slopes. We stopped for dinner in Maggie Valley and then headed back toward Asheville for another time of sharing in the evening.
On Saturday morning, we went to downtown Asheville in the cold, windy weather for a scavenger hunt! We divided the students up into teams, and they had to find 30 historical landmarks within a two-hour time period. Most found all 30 – along with coffee and donut shops to warm themselves up along the way. We also found out who the leaders and followers were. It was really fun to watch that evolve.
We stayed in Asheville for lunch and then went to the Blue Ridge YMCA for an afternoon of outdoor team-building activities. The group was divided into two teams, and each team was run through a series of low ropes exercises and games with different levels of difficulty. It was another teachable moment as the students felt tension and frustration. We had some great discussions after each exercise, where the students were given the opportunity to share about how they were feeling about both the exercise and one another. God really showed up during these times, and reconciliation was always taking place. We ended the afternoon with archery as a whole group – another fun experience! We ate dinner there, debriefed in the YMCA lodge and then headed toward South Carolina for the night.
On Sunday morning, we traveled to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a full day of fun outdoor activities. The students had the opportunity to zip-line, mountain-bike, rock-climb, kayak and ride a paddleboard. Ropes courses and white-water rafting were available as well. All the students went white-water rafting, and the course was amazing! They had class II to class IV rapids, and we only had two participants fall out of the rafts!
While we all left exhausted, we had great stories to tell. We stopped for dinner and actually met up with two Senior Life Prep alumni. This was a huge blessing both to me personally and to the whole group, as they were able to share stories of each other’s Epic Trips! Then we headed out of Charlotte for the night, and all were ready for an early night!
On Monday morning, we went to Bull Street Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, for the end-of-the-trip debriefing and time of sharing. We shared highs and lows of the trip, and how the students were feeling about the trip, themselves and one another. We went over Ephesians chapter 4 again and gave the students time to separate and personally reflect on where they are spiritually, to journal and to pray. Then we gathered for a time of Communion before sending them off to explore Savannah together before heading home.
We are so incredibly blessed to be able to serve in this way! This was another successful Epic Trip, as we heard positive feedback from the students, laughter, and excitement over what they had accomplished, along with a few tears because it was over. Most importantly, though, they felt as though we were all one big family the entire week … His family.