Annual Camp Casey leadership retreat

Every June, students spend time on a four-day, overnight retreat meant to build leadership skills and provide opportunities for networking and socializing with active members of the Bellevue College community. “It is a core component of all the things that we do here in the office of Student Programs,” said Brandon Lueken, program coordinator at the office of Student Programs, “We teach students practical things about leadership like communicating with people.”

BC began participating in Camp Casey over a decade ago, with the primary focus of familiarizing elected ASG members with each other and preparing them for their new positions. Now, it hosts about 100 students with 20 student mentors along with faculty and staff members. Students do a variety of activities to strengthen relationships between peers including trust exercises, group cheers and obstacle courses.

Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, courtesy Joe Mabel

Lueken has been collaborating with the Bellevue College Leadership Institute on the leadership retreat for the past three years. At the end of each retreat, students fill out a survey with feedback on their experiences which is used to change the programming schedule for the next retreat at Camp Casey.

This year, program coordinators made a significant change to scheduling by removing planned evening activities so that students had time to socialize.

“What we did this year was lighten the programming,” explained Lueken, “Students said ‘I need more time to be able to talk to people.’” In previous years students had a full schedule of activities starting from 7:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night.

Some students felt satisfied on the island with the programs and experiences put together by the coordinators. “I really got to know the people that I would be working with,” said Destin Albay, Peer to Peer mentor and interim president of the Arabic Culture Student Association, “They were helping us facilitate better events and work with a larger variety of people from all different kind of groups ethnically or socially.”

An appeal process during the Associated Student Government elections spring quarter left tension between the newly elected members of the student government. “Through the activities that workshops that we did over there I felt like we really bonded as a team,” said Muhammad Hussain, the Bellevue College emerging technology and entrepreneurial representative, “Especially on the second day, we did this challenge course where we did a bunch of team building activities. Through that we got to learn more about each other. We got really deep and personal.”

Some students observed Ramadan while at the camp and fasted during the days’ activities. “I thought it would be super hard. I thought I would use the excuse that I’m fasting to just fall asleep and not participate in any activities,” said Muhammad, “I was engaged in so many activities that I completely forgot I was fasting.”

Students interested in attending the camp next year may pick up an application from the Student Programs office starting in March. Returning students are eligible to be paid mentors.