December 30, 2018

The All High School Sukkaton, A New GOA Tradition

shapirogoa. So much fun and community spirit on our inaugural @goldaochacademy #su

Yael Abergel ‘22
Every school year at Golda Och Academy, high schoolers eagerly anticipate the ever-so-popular All-High School Shabbaton for a chance to begin and solidify friendships with older grades. Recognizing the importance of mixed-grade interactions, GOA decided to provide an additional bonding experience to speed up this process: the All-High School Sukkaton, where students were given the opportunity to form new friendships at a Sukkot retreat at Camp Ramah Nyack.
Being the first ever Sukkaton, students where uncertain of what to expect. Nevertheless, the trip proved to be a success and left everyone satisfied.
Unlike the Shabbaton, the Sukkaton takes place at the beginning of the school year. This is significant because it provides students with an earlier opportunity to get more comfortable with other grades. Also, many students were able to begin the formation of friendships with other classmates during the Sukkaton, with the hope of further developing them as the year progresses. An additional advantage to having a bonding trip early in the year is that seniors were able to attend the Sukkaton and contribute to the bonding experience.
While bonding with older grades is important and beneficial for all, it is particularly important to the freshman class. Having to adjust to the new, unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating high school environment, they found the Sukkaton very helpful.
“Coming into the school year I was slightly concerned about interactions with the upperclassmen,” freshman Emily Schall said. “[However,] this trip really allowed me to feel more confident [in myself] and make new friends.”
On Thursday morning, high schoolers headed to Camp Ramah Nyack. Students felt that  Camp Ramah was a good location choice for this trip, as it had convenient facilities that all students were able to enjoy, such as a basketball court, playgrounds, ropes courses, gazebos and a sukkah. The Sukkaton was filled with many organized activities that were carefully designed to enable students to branch out and socialize with people they otherwise would not have interacted.
The first activity was a trivia game arranged by the Student Council where high schoolers, along with the seventh and eighth grade, were divided into groups based on their birth months. Many students thought it was an enjoyable interaction with the middle schoolers where high school students could bond and test their knowledge of GOA trivia.
High schoolers were later separated into different discussion groups, led by a few seniors and teachers. These groups discussed various interesting topics such as improving self-confidence, environmental matters and the importance of lanes in GOA’s hallways. These interactions helped students connect comfortably and freely with other high school students.
“My favorite discussion group was the one about confidence,” freshman Bella Schneider said. “It was an engaging conversation which allowed me to feel less intimidated and more comfortable with upperclassmen.”
While all of these activities were entertaining and fun, the one-on-one conversations are always the most anticipated activity of every Shabbaton. Guidance counselors carefully paired up students from different grades according to similar personality characteristics. The goal of this activity is for each pair to get to know each other. To facilitate the conversation, pairs were given a list of personal questions to discuss. If there was one agreement about the Sukkaton, it was that the one-on-ones were by far the most effective bonding tool.
“Of all the activities on the trip, my one-on-one conversation with Maddie Herman was the most enjoyable and helpful,” freshman Alexis Fulop said.
Students were given downtime periods in between all of the organized activities. During free time, students could choose between playing basketball, ultimate frisbee, or hanging out with friends.
“I really enjoyed the free time because I was able to hang out with upper- and lower-classmen and make new friends,” sophomore Noah Feldman said.
At night, high schoolers gathered around a bonfire to make s'mores and sing songs, with seniors Itai Rekem and Eitan Gerstle on guitars. This was a fun and touching way to end an eventful weekend.

It is clear students greatly enjoyed this Sukkaton. The activities and camp setting induced interactions and bonding across the grades. As the first-ever Sukkaton proved to be a major success, high schoolers hope that this will become an annual, long-lived GOA tradition.

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