Eighth-graders from across La Plata County attended all-day orientations Thursday at Fort Lewis College on what to expect in high school and beyond – and how to handle those upcoming challenges.
Separate workshops were held for boys and girls. Workshops for boys were held at several places on campus. The sessions for girls were in the Student Union.
The Women’s Resource Center has organized the orientation for girls since its inception 15 years ago. The center partnered with Durango School District 9-R to add the program for boys two years ago.
The goal of the orientations is to prepare youths for the transition to high school and to emphasize the importance of graduating and going on to higher education, said Liz Mora, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center.
Furyu Nancy Schroeder, a Zen Buddhist priest and abbess at Green Gulch Farm, in Marin County just north of San Francisco, was the keynote speaker opening the orientation for the girls.
The 108-acre farm has a similar coming-of-age orientation for seventh- and eighth-graders that meets for a half-day once a month for a year, Schroeder said.
Schroeder was invited to Durango by former Mayor Michael Rendon, who spent six months as an intern on the farm several years ago.
In her address, Schroeder told participants they are as different as snowflakes, no two alike.
“The job of being just this person is the most important job each of us will ever have,” she said. “The assignment is to decide what kind of adult you want to be and then finding the pathway that will take you there.”
Maturity is establishing relationships and learning how to get along with others, Schroeder said. The most important lesson at Green Gulch Farm is learning to work together, she said.
The workshops for girls and boys overall promote taking charge of one’s life, discovering inner strengths and how to use them, forging healthy relationships and developing a positive self-image.
Rendon was the keynote speaker for the boys.
Rendon told the boys that the choices they make at age 14 likely will be the choices they make at 40. He urged them to maintain healthy relationships, not only with people but with habits involving alcohol or drugs.