Photo courtesy of Oakgrove Council
I think it is safe to say that we have all heard of the infamous Oakgrove, an experience that is personal to Venice High. If you don’t know what Oakgrove is, it is a student led three-day, two-night retreat in cabins in the middle of the Los Angeles National Forest.
Oakgrove creates an open space where teenagers feel comfortable to talk about anything. All teenagers just want to feel loved and welcomed. The best feeling as a teenager is feeling like you belong and can be heard. The best way to explain Oakgrove, it is a deep comfort and an understanding time.
The biggest thing I took away from the experience was that under everything we see on the surface of people, there are always deeper issues and problems that most teenegers go through. Listening to other people’s stories and personal experiences puts things into perspective. Personally, I sometimes feel alone and like no one can relate or understand, but I think it’s pretty normal for all teenagers to feel isolated.
At Oakgrove every panel, every trust group talk, you will always be listened to, whether the topic be childhood, mental health, sexuality and gender identity and many more. I noticed that everywhere I went, I found a lot of the people were going through similar experiences. A part of this retreat is to bring students together, connect them to some who have been through similar experiences and who can relate.
I always find myself judging people based on who they hang out with or what they do, especially in school, but at Oakgrove, I saw a completely different side of people that I would have never seen without this experience. Sometimes, we just need to have the right opportunity to let everything out and support each other in these very critical years of our lives.
I went to my first Oakgrove in the fall of 2018, my sophomore year. I had no idea what I was in for. I was close to some of the council members and hearing their experiences intrigued me because they explained it very vaguely, yet they said this experience changed their life. The way the council members talk about the experience to classes truly does not do it justice.
When people hear about Oakgrove, they think you just talk about your feelings and cry and make friends. I talked about things I would never before with my trust group that I had known for no more than five hours. I wouldn’t have been able to do that at school. I made friends on a deeper level in three days than I have with kids that I have known the entire school year.
My particular experience was a little different because I was on crutches and decided that I wanted to go last minute. Clearly I wasnt not in the best physical condition to be going on a retreat in the mountains, but my mental health was at an all-time low, so I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I really wanted to make new friends.
One of the hardest parts about Oakgrove is being open and vulnerable. Although it may sometimes be easier to open up to strangers, it can still be intimidating. The thought of being judged was always in the back of my mind, but it was always internal. But we were all making ourselves vulnerable so that made it easier.
If you are thinking about going or second guessing yourself because you don’t know anybody that is going, please don’t pass up this beautiful experience. One of the main purposes of Oakgrove is to step out of your comfort zone and make friends with people you wouldn’t have ever talked to or even seen.