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Operation Snowball creates ‘a community of caring’

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Barbara Collins

More stories from Barbara Collins

Issue 1
October 26, 2017

Almost 200 DGS students and staff members will attend the 20th annual fall Operation Snowball event at YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside on Nov. 10-11. Operation Snowball’s goal is to create an accepting place for students to have fun and be their authentic selves.

Participating students will hear from two guest speakers, take part in small group activities, participate in group workshops and share meals together. A dance will also occur Friday evening.

Student assistance coordinator Diana Benoist has supported Snowball for 17 years. She believes Snowball is a positive environment for students to learn more about themselves and their peers.

“The goal of Snowball is to provide an atmosphere away from school where kids feel accepted for who they are and are given an opportunity to be themselves, have fun, express themselves, think about their decision-making, their future, set goals and do that around other students who are going to just basically accept them for who,” Benoist said.

Two new speakers will address Snowball participants this year. The first speaker, Loren Michael Harris, will speak about overcoming a rough childhood and achieving sobriety from substance abuse. The second speaker is former DGS student, Amy Liss, who has significant physical limitations and has learned how to make her limitations become empowering.

There are six student directors who create skits and workshops for students at Snowball. This year, skits will cover topics such as substance abuse, a student’s parents going through a separation and mental health.

“They [the directors] really try to take issues that kids are facing right now, that they know that their friends and peers struggle with, and address those and give kids an opportunity to think through them, process them, and know that they’re not alone in their struggles,” Benoist said.

Directors are also involved in major decision-making. Benoist said she feels confident that the directors this year will make sure Snowball is a success.

“We have probably one of the best director teams I can ever remember in my 17 years. These six kids are just amazing. They are super organized, super dedicated and really their mind is always on what’s going to make the participants have a great time,” Benoist said.

Senior and director Johanna Skibbe attended her first Snowball as a freshman and has come back ever since. She thinks Snowball is a great experience for everyone and encourages students to attend Snowball at least once in their high school career.

“I told my younger brother, if you don’t like it, then you just don’t come back, it’s not that big of a deal. Snowball has definitely made me much more confident in myself and opened my eyes to so many new perspectives and ways other people live their lives…It’s a really fun place to be, so I would encourage everyone to try to go,” Skibbe said.

Skibbe said the biggest thing Snowball has taught her is that it is okay for her to be herself. She also said that she loves the connection to others she feels at Snowball and has made many friends through attending. The biggest piece of advice Skibbe would give to someone going to Snowball for the first time is to be accepting and not afraid of others.

“I think I would tell them [people attending Snowball for the first time] to just let themselves open up. Don’t worry about what other people are or aren’t getting out of the activities but worry about what you can get out of them, and just be respectful of everybody. If you don’t like what someone’s saying, it’s okay, but just don’t make them feel bad about what they have to say,” Skibbe said.

Senior and small group leader Taylor Rosko agrees with Skibbe. She said that students attending can look forward to a positive and accepting environment with lots of fun activities for students to be themselves.

“We have been preparing this event for about four weeks to make sure that the participants are going to have a good time because it is all about them, they are the focus and we want them to have a good time and want to come back,” Rosko said.

Benoist also believes that every student should try to attend Snowball. She said she has never had a student completely dislike Snowball and thinks that there is something there for everyone.

“I think the thing that kids say again and again about what they love about Snowball is it’s like a refresher for their life. So they go, and they meet new people, they have fun, they feel like it’s an environment so different from school because everybody’s so themselves and authentic, and they feel comfortable talking about what’s going on in their life in a supportive way. And so then, when they come back, they just feel kind of energized and refreshed and ready to face whatever life throws at them,” Benoist said.

Snowball reminds Benoist how caring and accepting DGS students are. She said that Snowball creates an amazing support system for other students.

“I think Snowball has taught me and just always affirms to me that you’re never alone with anything that you’re struggling with, and that if you’re going through something there are always people there who are willing to support you, and there’s always hope for that, and even if you’re not struggling with things in your life it’s always a good time to reflect on who you are, who you wanna be, and how you’re gonna get there,” Benoist said.

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